US researchers have conducted a study in which they have found thyroid cancer can actually be smelt by dogs in people suffering with the serious health condition, but had not yet been diagnosed.
According to the team, the animal had an “unbelievable” smelling sense.
The scientists at the Cancer Research UK conducted tests on 34 patients and found an 88 percent success rate in finding the cancerous tumours in thyroid.
The researchers believe even though the use of dogs would be very impractical, but the detection of chemicals leading to cancer by the dogs’ smelling power could lead to new types of tests.
The tumours in thyroid, a gland in the neck producing hormones for metabolism regulation, are relatively rare and are normally diagnosed with the help of tests of hormone levels in the blood involving extraction of cells via needle.
A previous research by a team of scientists at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) had showed that a trained dog could smell the difference between samples of urine of patients with and without thyroid cancer.
For the study, the researchers involved 34 patients who went for conventional testing but took part in the clinical trial.
Frankie, the German Shepherd, was trained by the scientists to lie down when thyroid cancer is smelt in given samples, and turn away when the urine was clean.
The researchers said that Frankie gave correct diagnosis for 30 out of 34 patients. While two diagnoses was false positives, two patients were incorrectly given the all-clear for thyroid cancer.
“The capability of dogs to smell minute amounts is unbelievable. The medical community over the next few years is going to have a great appreciation for them,” Dr Donald Bodenner, endocrine oncology chief at UAMS, said.
SYMPTOMS OF THYROID CANCER
- A painless swelling or lump at the front-side of the neck just below the Adam’s apple
- Sore throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Unreasonable hoarseness
- Neck pain
The findings of the study were presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.