Can Dogs Detect Cancer?

The use of dogs in detecting the presence of cancer in a human being is not something that will normally come across someone’s mind. The idea is very strange and quite far from reality at the point that it can be funny. But would you believe that such a thing has been proven to exist? Our dear pets have the capability of detecting cancer through their powerful smell and such have a surprisingly higher reliability than the usual specific antigen tests used by human oncologists.


One specific cancer which is under study for such possibility is prostate cancer. It has been said to affect 233,000 men in the United States yearly and is the most common cancer found in men nowadays. Italian researchers headed by Jean-Nicolas Cornu conducted a study wherein German Shepherd dogs were used to smell the urine samples from individuals with confirmed prostate cancer. Samples were mixed with healthy samples and subjected to the dogs’ olfactory expertise.

Biomarkers or cancer-specific volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) are used by doctors and scientists today to diagnose cancer in humans. Whenever these compounds are present in a urine sample, it is almost always that the sample is positive for a specific type of cancer. In this study, VOC’s for prostate cancers were detected and used as the test biomarkers for dogs.

The results of the study were astonishing and amazing! It was found out that the VOC test for dogs has 98% and almost perfect accuracy. This is way behind the cancer-specific antigen test widely used in hospitals that usually give high false positive results that doctors are often reluctant to use them. These breakthrough findings simply show that VOC test in urine is a promising method to cancer diagnosis and dogs have a certain smelling ability that detects them. Though the test still needs to go through developments and further confirmation, the possibility of existence of such test will highly reduce the cost of cancer detection as it will lessen the number of biopsies and invasive procedures.

Dogs’ ability to sniff and smell proves that this special ability can now be used way beyond hunting and explosive detection. The application of this amazing skill that our furry friends have is something we humans will forever owe them. – especially now that the topic is cancer which is a highly fatal disease with no proven prevention and cure. Dogs have 200 million olfactory cells while humans only have 5 million. This may be the reason why they can detect the unique smell of these VOC’s. It is also an added bonus that these animals can be trained where their exceptional smelling ability can be fully exhausted and put to good use in studies and experiments.

Other cancer experiments using dogs and VOC’s as detection aids include melanoma, breast, lung, bladder and ovarian cancers. Surely, it will be very soon that we will find the ultimate cancer detection test; and the possibility of our beloved pooches’ main participation is as exciting as it can get.

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