A Labrador can detect bowel cancer in breath and stool samples with remarkable accuracy, claim Japanese researchers from the Kyushu University. Scientists are of the opinion that this breakthrough could help detect a tumor at its earliest stages. Previous studies have found that dogs can sniff bladder, lung, ovarian and breast cancer.
A specially-trained female black Labrador was used to carry out 74 'sniff tests' over few months. Each test comprised of 5 breath or stool samples out of which only 1 sample was cancerous. Researchers complicated the task for the 8year old canine by including samples from people with bowel polyps (they are benign but a precursor of bowel cancer), smokers or people with other gut problems like inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, diverticulitis, and appendicitis. However this did not interfere with the olfactory accuracy of the dog. This shows that cancer cells emit specific discernible odors while they circulate in the body.
AdvertisementThe dog showed 95% accuracy and performed well especially among people with early stage of cancer. Presently available non-invasive techniques for detecting bowel cancer are more accurate at detecting cancer in later stages. Early detection is important because surgery can cure up to 90% cases. Cure rates drop down as the cancer advances. The authors said that using dogs as a screening tool is impractical and expensive. But if a sensor is developed to detect specific compounds that are linked to cancer, in fecal material or the air it could prove to be of great help for the medical fraternity.