Dogs sniff out lung cancer

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Trained dogs can sniff out lung cancer

It has long been known that dogs can sniff out various types of cancer with their fine nose. Now doctors at the Schillerhöhe Clinic in Gerlingen (Ludwigsburg district) have proven that their four-legged friends can also diagnose lung cancer (bronchial carcinoma) relatively reliably.

The specially trained dogs have identified lung cancer in more than 70 percent of the cases, according to study author Thorsten Walles in the current issue of the European Respiratory Journal. The dogs probably noticed different chemicals in the breath of lung cancer patients than in healthy test subjects, Walles continues. According to the expert, these differences were recognizable to the four-legged friends at a very early stage of the disease. If it is possible to identify the chemical substances that help dogs diagnose the development of artificial sensors for the early detection of lung cancer, the scientists at the Schillerhöhe Clinic emphasize.

Dogs recognize lung cancer in 71 percent of the cases As part of the study, Thorsten Walles and colleagues had 100 breath samples from lung cancer patients and 400 breath samples from healthy study participants diagnosed by specially trained dogs. In 71 of the 100 lung cancer breath samples the four-legged friends recognized the lung cancer, in 372 of the 400 breath samples of the healthy study participants the dogs correctly determined that there was no lung cancer. The dogs recognized lung cancer regardless of whether the sufferers were smokers or suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), reports Thorsten Walles. According to the specialist, "there are probably different chemicals in the breath of lung cancer patients than in normal breath and the fine sense of smell of the dogs can recognize this difference at an early stage of the disease." The study result is - regardless of the evidence of the possibility of lung cancer -Diagnosis with the help of dogs - of particular importance for science, as there are no options for the early detection of bronchial carcinoma, said the European Lung Foundation. The hit rate of the dogs has so far not offered the medically necessary safety with a little more than 70 percent, but the four-legged friends were only trained for eleven weeks for the current examination, so that with a better training, the diagnostic certainty would also increase, Walles explained.

Diagnosis of cancer with the help of trained dogs is not a novelty. Previous studies have already shown that dogs can sniff out various types of cancer, such as skin, breast and colon cancer, using the breath, urine or stool of the patient. The German researchers have now confirmed this for lung cancer for the first time. However, use of the four-legged friends in medical practice will probably remain the exception in the future. The dogs are significantly faster than previous diagnostic methods, but their capacities are limited. A dog can not be used for diagnosis all day, because this is extremely exhausting for the four-legged friends and over time the diagnostic certainty would decrease significantly. An electronic sensor could, however, take over the work of the dogs if the chemical substances perceived by the fine dog's nose were able to be identified, according to the doctors at the Schillerhöhe Clinic. This would enable the early detection of lung cancer and the chances of survival for those affected would increase significantly, Walles and colleagues report. Because the earlier the disease is recognized, the higher the chances of success of the therapy. Since lung cancer still causes the most deaths of all cancers worldwide, physicians have been looking for effective treatment and early detection options for years. In Germany alone, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), around 50,000 people develop bronchial carcinoma annually, and 40,000 people die here every year as a result of lung cancer. The chance of survival after five years is only around five percent in lung cancer patients. (fp)

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Video: Dogs help detect lung cancer


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