The world has long known that dogs have a much more sensitive sense of smell than humans. People found that highly trained canines are incredibly useful for sniffing out everything from bombs and drugs to lost little children. Researchers in Great Britain are now working on a way to train dogs to sniff out prostate cancer.
As it turns out, prostate cancer cells release organic compounds when they divide. These compounds can be picked up by a dog’s sensitive nose. In hopes of showing just how useful canines can be in helping detect prostate cancer, scientists at Milton Keynes University Hospital trained dogs to detect these compounds. Initial tests have shown that the dogs were able to detect the disease in 93 percent of the cases they were presented with.
The dog-sniffing tests are being conducted as a possible way to replace the current Prostate-Specific Antigen test. The PSA is useful and important in some cases, but it’s known to produce a lot of false positives. These, in turn, can prompt men to undergo invasive tests that may not always be 100 percent necessary.
Dogs, however, require about six months to train. Once they are trained, they can easily indicate when a sample from a patient contains cancer cells. The test, researchers say, is accurate, fast and cheaper than standard PSA testing.
While much more research needs to be completed for dog testing to replace PSA testing, researchers believe they are on the right track. The hope is eventually to create an electronic “nose,” similar to a dog’s that can be used in a lab to detect cancer cells.
Prostate cancer strikes an estimated 220,000 American men each year. Some 30,000 men in America will die from the disease each year. Early detection is critical for keep potentially life-saving treatment options open for those who are diagnosed with the disease. Men who are at risk for prostate cancer are urged to speak with their healthcare providers.