Recently, Frankie, a German Shepard, was used to sniff out cancerous tumors in 34 patients. He had an amazing 88% accuracy rating. All 34 patients were scheduled to go to the hospital for diagnostic testing shortly after their experiment with Frankie. This means that none of the patients had been officially diagnosed yet.
Frankie’s trainer worked with him to sniff urine samples and lie down if he smelled any detection of thyroid cancer. If the urine was clean he was to turn away. During the trial Frankie only made two incorrect diagnoses for clean urine and only signaled two false positives. That means he was correct in 30 out of 34 of the cases.
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Cancerous cells release what are known as volatile organic compounds. The method of training dogs to sniff out cancer relies on the dog’s extreme sense of smell and their ability to sniff out the unique odors that are being released by the cancer cells.
Studies have been conducted in the past to see if dogs could smell the difference between cancerous and noncancerous tissue. In fact, this method has already showed amazing results in patients with lung and bowel cancer. There have even been reports of dogs that have sniffed out breast cancer.
Researchers explained that this time they wanted to tell whether a dog could diagnose the disease before the medical team had even diagnosed it. The goal of the study is to show that dogs can be used to help doctors diagnose patients with cancer.
Thyroid cancer can be particularly hard to diagnose, and with any type of cancer it can be tough to tell if the patient is 100% cancer free following treatment. Dogs can sense it, thanks to their sense of smell that is 10 times better than a human’s, much easier and faster than any medical testing. Many working dogs rely mostly on their intense ability to smell.
Although there are many critics that say the use of dogs in medical diagnostics is impractical, researchers are hoping to do more testing to see if there are other types of cancer that Frankie, and dogs like him, could be used to detect. They believe the implications of this research could change the field of medicine entirely.
They feel that the cost savings in diagnostic testing alone could change the face of medicine, not to mention that cancer sniffing dogs could help prevent a lot of unnecessary surgeries. Likewise, this method could be used in areas where diagnostic testing is not available.
So far, the only dogs that have been used were rescues that were specifically trained to perform scent detection. The next step in the plan involves specifically breeding dogs for medical scent detection purposes.