Study shows dogs can be trained to accurately detect cancer using sense of smell

Health

Credit: Monica de Moss

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Researchers, who were looking for an affordable way to detect a particular type of cancer, have discovered that dogs can be successfully trained to detect the illness through smell.

According to a report from Medical News Today, a recent US study featured a German shepherd mix named Frankie, who was able to detect whether or not thyroid cancer was present in human urine samples with an accuracy rate of nearly 90 percent.

The dog had been trained to lie down when he smelled a sample from an individual who had thyroid cancer, and to turn away when he didn’t smell it. Frankie was correct 30 out of 34 times on patients who had already undergone biopsies and diagnostic surgery for abnormal thyroid nodules. According to a report by PBS, a dog’s sense of smell can be up to 100,000 times better than humans.

Dr. Donald Bodenner, Associate Professor in the Department of Geriatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said that the German shepherd mix was about as accurate as thyroid biopsies conducted with a needle, but much less expensive.

“Detecting and diagnosing thyroid cancer can be difficult, because it’s often looking for a very small number of occurrences in a very large background of benign nodules. It is also difficult to say with certainty that a patient is cancer-free after surgery,” said Dr. Bodenner in a news release.

Bodenner said they are interested to know what Frankie is detecting by smell, but at this point are unsure what it is. He also said there has been success with dogs detecting both ovarian and prostate cancer using this technique as well.

Because cases of thyroid cancer are increasing worldwide, researchers are hoping to pinpoint what it is which the dogs are smelling, and hope to possibly design a type of “electronic nose” device, which could be used in the same way as the dogs to detect certain cancers. They are hoping these alternative measures would help patients avoid invasive diagnostic procedures which often produce unclear results, potentially leading to a lot of unnecessary thyroid surgeries.

For more information on this study from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, CLICK HERE.

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