One of the worst medical conditions in the world is cancer. Most cancers can be treated, but one requirement that can assure a successful recovery is early medical detection (1).
Though medical detection is improving, certain events and researches point out that some animals can detect cancer much earlier than previously thought. But what about some of the animals that are closest to us? What about dogs? Can dogs detect cancer?
The short answer is yes, they can smell unique odors emitted by cancers called volatile organic compounds (2). If their smelling prowess can be technologically replicated, it would be our best cancer detection mechanism ever.
The beautiful part of our noble companions is that, even if they are trained or not, they could alert us if something is wrong inside our bodies(3).
All dogs have sensitive noses, several times more powerful than our own, that can detect cancer’s unique odors. They can, in a way, sort out the good and the bad chemicals very early(4).
It is quite likely that all, if not most dogs are capable of this, but the dogs that have been specifically bred for hunting might be the best cancer detectors due to their noses being even more sensitive.
Can dogs detect cancer?
Dogs can be trained to detect cancer, and it typically takes around 6 months in order to do so. However, there are currently many missing links waiting to be put together in order to accurately pinpoint the exact way that dogs detect cancer, and what other things give away cancer’s presence.
It is quite clear from many cases, that dogs are better in detecting cancer than most of our technological equipment(5). But if this is the case, then why don’t we use dogs more actively in the process of detecting cancer?
The problem of using dogs in detecting cancers
The answer is quite simple. There are many resources needed to train dogs to detect cancer and even if they were accommodated, it isn’t a realistic way of screening the patients.
We mustn’t forget that dogs are living beings and not a device to be constantly used as an object. They, like us, can have a bad day, get tired of it, and produce false results.
We simply cannot take the risk of using dogs to such an industrial level and risk someone’s medical condition to be overseen due to a multitude of unforeseen factors; it simply isn’t good for both the dogs and us.
However, we can do something else that can benefit everyone. We can technologically replicate a dog’s “nose” so to say. If we continue to research and exactly understand the mechanisms of detection in a dog’s nose and what gives away cancer in regards to smell, we can create even portable devices that can alert us very early, similarly to our beloved pets.
Did you know?
– Most cancers leave different signatures in a person’s body and dogs can detect them through different characteristics such as skin, breath, urine, feces, or sweat.
– Reportedly, dogs can be trained to detect cancer in around 93% of cases, though many dogs displayed this skill without being trained. Two studies in 2004 and 2006 involving a small number of patients, reported a 99% accuracy in detecting lung cancer with the help of dogs
– Dogs have proven to be capable in many instances in successfully detecting lung cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, bladder cancer, and other medical conditions.