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How Do Animals Detect Early Signs Of Cancer In Their Owners?

Many animal owners and animal lovers feel a special and unique bond with their four-legged friends. From buying gifts to holding birthday parties for them, people love to surround themselves with other members of the animal kingdom.

However, according to WebMD, there are some animals that have unusual powers and can rescue their humans from hazardous situations by detecting and predicting health problems. Dogs are particularly friendly animals that can detect cancer in humans, and a great deal of research has been undertaken to investigate the ways that dogs can detect early signs of cancer. So how exactly is a dog able to detect cancer in human beings?

All in the Scent

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Photo by Joshua Kirby via Flickr

Dogs have an outstanding sense of smell that is 10,000 or more times better than that of humans. Dogs can therefore detect cancer by smelling a human’s breath, for instance. This lets them determine instances of lung cancer with an accuracy of 93 percent under test conditions. One Japanese pooch was chosen to sniff the stool samples and breath of more than 300 patients and gave consistently accurate cancer readings.

How Does This Happen?

The tumors brought about by cancerous cells release small amounts of toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are not found in healthy tissues. Dogs can smell these compounds in even minute concentrations, and they are often upset or agitated by them. The ability of dogs to detect these VOCs may lead to other new techniques for identifying cancers. Dogs’ amazing powers of scent also allow them to detect raised blood sugar levels that lead to diabetic seizures, creating another field in which they are excellent diagnosticians.

Train to Gain

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Photo by mdvfunes via Flickr

Dogs can be trained to determine changes in human behavior and body rhythms as well as scents. This means that they can learn to detect not only cancer and diabetes, but also high blood pressure, epileptic seizures, and heart attacks. By training a pet or service dog to give a warning to the patient, it allows that patient time to get the help they need.

Cancer is not the only disease that dogs can detect. Trained medical dogs can also identify changes in blood sugar and sense the first signs of seizures, protecting their owners from harm. And advances in cancer diagnosis, whether by using animals or adapting their talents to new tools, can help save even more lives.


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