Are dogs better at detecting cancer ‘than advanced technology?’

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Are dogs better at detecting cancer ‘than advanced technology?’

By Maria Cohut

Because dogs have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, researchers are increasingly interested in finding out whether they can detect disease. One new study working with beagles has found that they can successfully
sniff out” lung cancer with extremely high accuracy.

Recent data indicate that non-small cell lung cancer “is the second most common cancer” that doctors diagnose among patients in the United States. This type of cancer is also responsible for the largest number of cancer-related deaths.

For this reason, early diagnosis is crucial. Tackling lung cancer in its early stages can allow doctors to find and apply the most effective treatments.

‘They noted that Beagles are not just friendly and extremely cuddly, they could detect cancer accurately”

But the most common methods of diagnosing lung cancer — through CT and PET scans — can be very costly and are sometimes inaccurate or unreliable.

“The olfactory acuity of a dog is at least 10,000 times more sensitive than that of a human, which is likely due to their more expansive olfactory epithelium and olfactory receptors and their ability to retain air in their nasopharynx during exhalation,” the study authors explain in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

How dogs’ noses may improve detection

The researchers initially trained four beagles for 8 weeks, though one showed little interest in the assigned task so did not take part in the study.

After the training period, the team called upon the three beagles to correctly distinguish between blood samples collected from individuals with non-small cell lung cancer and a set of blood samples obtained from healthy individuals.

The researchers placed all the samples in one room, at a height at which the dogs could comfortably sniff them. The team had trained the beagles to sit down when they could smell cancer, or to move on if the sample was from a healthy person.

The dogs successfully made the distinction between the two types of samples, identifying the presence of cancer with 97.5% specificity, and 96.7% sensitivity.

Source: Medical News Today

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