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Sensing cancer on the horizon through scent detection

Anecdotes from bewildered pet owners about their furry friends barking away at some part of their master's body have been around for some time. People told stories of hidden disease being sniffed out by their dogs before they were even diagnosed. A study published in the International Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and British Medical Journal shed light on this phenomenon.
Researchers obtained exhaled breath and stool samples from patients with colorectal (bowel) cancer and from volunteers without cancer. A specially trained Labrador retriever was made to sniff out each of the sample stations consisting of one cancer-containing sample and four cancer-free samples. The dog completed 74 sniff tests and successfully identified 33 out of 36 cancerous breath samples and 37 out of 38 cancer-containing stool samples.
Compared with colonoscopy, a conventional method for detecting colorectal cancer, canine scent detection has 95% accuracy and 98% accuracy for the breath test and stool test, respectively. And detection rates were high even for early stage cancer. Scent from samples of people who smoke or have other bowel disease did not seem to interfere with the smell coming from the cancerous samples.
The authors concluded that there are indeed detectible scents given off by cancer-carrying chemical compounds that are circulating around the body. Odor detection could become a tool for early discovery of cancer, although the authors admitted that canine detection can be expensive and time-consuming. They thus proposed that a sensor be developed to identify the cancer-containing compounds sensed by dogs in lieu of actual canine scent judgment.
The fecal occult blood test (blood stool sample), currently the noninvasive method for bowel cancer screening, has only a predictive value of 10% and can detect early stage disease in only one out of 10 cases.
There had been previous studies using canines to detect breast, lung, ovarian, bladder and skin cancers.


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Capital Surgeons Group is a group surgical practice specializing in bariatric surgery, breast surgery, colorectal surgery, laparoscopic surgery and robotic surgery at the following locations:


Central Austin

3705 Medical Parkway, Suite 250 and 210
Austin, TX 78705
Appointments: 512.302.1210
Office Hours: M-F, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm


North Austin/Round Rock

505 W. Louis Henna Blvd., Suite 220
Austin, TX 78728
Appointments: 512.498.4860
Office Hours: M-F, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm


South Austin

5625 Eiger Road, Suite 230
Austin, TX 78735
Appointments: 512.441.7755
Office Hours: M-F, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm