Study shows dogs can sniff out lung cancer

Last year there were reports of dogs’ ability to sniff out different types of ovarian cancer. A new study has found that these abilities extend to reliably detecting lung cancer.

The researchers say the results of the study confirm that there is a stable marker for lung cancer, which means that a “breath test” for early detection could be developed.

According to the European Lung Foundation, lung cancer is the second most frequent form of cancer in men and women across Europe and accounts for over 340,000 deaths each year. The chances of survival are relatively high when detected early, but because many of the symptoms are nonspecific it is often not diagnosed before the cancer has spread.

To provide a simple way to detect lung cancer in its early stages, researchers have been working to identify volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are linked to the presence of cancer.

Researchers from Schillerhoehe Hospital in Germany conducted tests using exhaled breath specimens provided by 220 volunteers, including lung cancer patients, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients and healthy patients.

Specially trained sniffer dogs successfully identified 71 samples of lung cancer out of a possible 100 and correctly detected 372 samples that didn’t have lung cancer out of a possible 400.

Although it isn’t known which specific chemical the dogs are responding to, the researchers say the results confirm there is indeed a stable marker for lung cancer that is independent of COPD and is detectable in the presence of tobacco smoke, food odours and drugs.

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