In today’s world, the risk of cancer is incredibly high. Thankfully, society has been working harder than ever in the effort towards cancer prevention and treatment. Considering the importance behind early detection of cancer, the thought that a canine might be able to detect early signs of cancer by scent alone is extremely promising.
The idea that a dog’s sense of smell might be powerful enough to detect cancer took off after a victim of skin cancer noticed their canine repeatedly sniffing and showing an interest in a skin lesion, which turned out to be melanoma. It is well known that certain breeds of dog are able to detect certain chemicals in the air in quantities as low as parts per trillion, and considering that certain cancers release specific toxins not released by healthy cells, it may be entirely possible for a dog to detect cancer. Over the past 4 years, there have only been a couple studies testing the theory that a dog can detect cancer in a patient. While both studies have had promising results, showing a rate of accuracy as high as 88%, they were both only preliminary tests, and used only a small sample of the population.
Regardless of whether or not a dog is actually able to detect cancer by scent, it remains that any type of sniffer dog must be specifically trained for that purpose. However, the incident that originally sparked interest in cancer detection brings up an interesting point about dogs, such as personal protection dogs, that work closely with their owners; canines are incredibly in-tune with the health of their handlers. Whether or not your German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois has been specifically trained to sniff out cancer, there is a good chance that it will recognize and respond to any kind of illness.