With just six months of training, a German Shepherd can accurately detect breast cancer, suggests a study.
According to researchers, the technique is simple, non-invasive and cheap and may revolutionise cancer detection in countries where mammograms are hard to come by. The results revealed, in the first experiment, the dogs detected 28 out of the 31 cancerous bandages - a 90 percent pass rate. On the second try, they scored 100 percent - sitting down in front of the box containing the cancerous sample with their muzzle pressed deep into the cone.
‘A German Shepherd can accurately detect breast cancer. The technique is simple, non-invasive and cheap and may revolutionise cancer detection in countries where mammograms are hard to come by.’
"In these countries, there are oncologists, there are surgeons, but in rural areas often there is limited access to diagnostics," said lead researcher Isabelle Fromantin, reports the Mail Online. Working on the assumption that breast cancer cells have a distinguishing smell which sensitive dog noses will pick up, the team collected samples from 31 cancer patients. These were pieces of bandage that patients had held against their affected breast.
The team trained German Shepherds Thor and Nykios to recognise cancerous rags from non-cancerous ones. After six months, the dogs were put to the test. One bandage was used per experiment, along with three samples from women with no cancer. Each bandage was placed in a box with a large cone which the dogs could stick their noses into, sniffing at each in turn-four boxes per test.
The team says it is the only one to work with breast cancer detection from skin-touch samples. Other research projects are testing canines' ability to smell different types of cancer in samples of the skin itself, blood or urine, even the air people exhale.