Dogs have always been known for their keen sense of smell, but physicians have only recently discovered that they’re sensitive enough to sniff out cancerous tumors. A recent study by the UK charity Medical Detection Dogs found that specially trained canines can accurately sniff out prostate tumors in urine in 93% of cases.
The traditional prostate-specific antigen test used to determine whether a patient needs a biopsy has a high false positive rate, wasting time and money. Dr. Claire Guest, who founded Medical Detection Dogs after her own dog sniffed out a tumor in her breast, told The Guardian that their dogs “have higher rates of reliability than most of the existing tests.”
Cancerous tumors carry odor-causing volatile compounds, which can get into a patient’s urine. According to Guest, dogs can detect a scent equivalent to a drop of blood in two Olympic-sized swimming pools, so their ability to sniff out a tumor shouldn’t be that surprising.
Using dogs as tools for early cancer detection wouldn’t just be accurate, but much cheaper — and cuter — to boot.