Life Saving Cancer Sniffing Dogs

Life Saving Cancer Sniffing Dogs

Nathalia Valdez, Reporter

Dogs protect.

Dogs attack.

And some dogs can even sniff out cancer?!?

Olfactory receptors determine how well someone can smell. Humans have approximately 5 million olfactory receptors, while most dogs have at least 200 million olfactory receptors. That’s 40x better than humans. Some dogs such as German Shepard’s, Bloodhounds, and Labrador Retrievers have up too 300 olfactory receptors, these dogs are also better to train and deal with, so they are most likely used for helping detect cancer.

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Young woman breathing

This is how the results are concluded: hundreds of samples are provided containing many different odors. Then the dog is simply trained to correctly identify alkanes and aromatic compounds. These compounds are only produced by cancer cells. According to Tangstar Science: “For example if a dog was given 5 breath samples. Sample 2 and 3 contain the cancer compounds, but all samples contain the odor of mint. The dog will be rewarded if she correctly identifies sample 2 and 3, but will not be rewarded when she mistakenly identifies sample 1, 4, and 5. This helps teach the dog that mint flavor is not the target smell.”

This is beneficial for many reasons. This method is much cheaper than using expensive medical machines, not to  mention they can even be a bit risky at times. According to Tangstar Science “a dog’s sense of smell can be so sensitive that they can detect cancer even at the earliest stages,” something medical technology cannot do. And a typical biopsy procedure could be invasive or even damage the body.

Medical Detection Dogs are currently working on a research project to help detect other medical conditions such as onset of seizures and blood sugar level drops in diabetics.