Breast cancer detection by dogs trialled

A UK charity is funding a scheme to work out whether it is practical to use canines to detect a serious form of cancer.

The Buckinghamshire-based charity, Medical Detection Dogs, was set up to ensure that the use of pooches to sniff out medical conditions was properly researched. Its lobbying and assistance has helped to make sure that this innovative approach to cancer detection was not ignored in favour of methods that are more conventional.

It has a group of dogs and trainers working on the problem of early cancer detection, and the Medical Detection Dogs team has already developed a reliable way to detect prostate cancer. Urine samples are used and 93% of the time when one of their dogs flags a sample, the donor turns out to have prostate cancer.

The charity’s founder, Dr Claire Guest, was alerted to the fact that she had breast cancer by her dog Daisy. She kept on jumping up at Dr Guest’s chest without prompting. Daisy had already participated in the prostate cancer trial, and when Dr Guest was tested for breast cancer, she had the disease.

Now the charity has worked out a reliable way to test for prostate cancer, it has decided to move onto breast cancer. Studies in other parts of the world show that dogs can detect lung and bowel cancer using breath samples. As a result, the breast cancer trial will start by using breath analysis as well. Six dogs are in the early stages of training, with four more to join the trial if the first round of testing is successful.