If you are concerned that you may have cancer, see a dog. Several studies are underway with dogs sniffing out cancers. Some of these studies are federally funded, and they come with great hope for early detection.

The University of Pennsylvania researchers say results are 90% successful in identifying the scent of ovarian cancer in tissue samples. Currently, there are no other effective tests for early detection. The dogs also are used in detecting prostate cancer in urine samples with 98% accuracy, where the traditional PSA test gives a high percentage of false positives.

Dogs are long recognized for their acute sense of smell. They have 220 million olfactory cells in their noses compared with 50 million in humans. The studies found that dogs detect chemicals emitted by tumors referred to as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Whether some types of dogs are better than others at detection is still unclear.

The findings of these studies may open up possibilities of use with breath samples to find breast, colon, and lung cancers. There also may be the ability to copy this type of detection with a machine or chemical test. Researches are finding much hope from what they are learning from man’s best friend.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle