The European Respiratory Journal published the results of a study in which four dogs took part – two German Shepherd Dogs, an Australian Shepherd Dog and a Labrador. During this study, it was found that dogs are 71% accurate in detecting lung cancer in the early stages of the disease.
German researchers in special fleece bags took samples of exhaled air from 220 patients. Of these, 110 people were healthy volunteers, 60 people were diagnosed with lung cancer and 50 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). After nine months of training, the dogs learned to recognize the smell and sat down in front of the samples, where no lung cancer was detected.
Researchers suggest that tumors produce volatile organic matter (VOC), and that dogs are able to smell them despite even conflicting odors such as tobacco, food, or even COPD.
Studies on the ability of dogs to detect cancer began in 1989. Although the results have not always been consistent, however, there is also evidence that dogs can detect some other types of cancer in the early stages, including the bladder, intestines, breast and skin.
Their help in detecting lung cancer is very important because it helps doctors detect the disease at an early stage, which makes treatment much more effective. According to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more people have recently died of lung cancer than other types of cancer. And this is largely due to the fact that it is difficult to diagnose in the early stages, since the symptoms may not be sufficiently pronounced, and in 25 percent of patients there are no symptoms at all.
If further research is successful and the scientists find out the source of such BWO, the doctors hope that it will be possible to create an “electronic nose” type device that can be used in hospitals, which will make it possible to detect the disease and begin treatment in the early stages, and then the saved lives much more.
Dogs have long been used to detect drugs, explosives, or to search for corpses. Some breeds have more than 200 million olfactory receptors that are responsible for detecting the smell of molecules. People have only 5 million of such receptors, therefore the abilities of dogs are extremely valuable for science and medicine.