LONDON – Many urologists agree that the current, PSA test for detecting prostate cancer is often unreliable, but it remains widely used because there are no other tests. Researchers in Britain say this method may soon be replaced with dogs trained to sniff out the type of cancer.
Cancer of the prostate gland is one of the leading types of cancers affecting men in their 60s. According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, in 2012 it was diagnosed in more than 1 million men.
Treatment can be successful if the cancer is diagnosed early. With the help of man’s best friend, prostate cancer detection may soon be much more accurate.
“Dogs have got this fantastic sense of smell; 300 million sensory receptors – us humans have 5 million. So they’re very, very good at finding minute odors,” said according to the American Cancer Society.
As prostate cancer cells divide, they release certain organic compounds that dogs can smell. During initial tests at Britain’s Milton Keynes University Hospital, dogs detected the disease in 93 percent of cases.
In addition to being accurate, testing with dogs is much quicker and cheaper than laboratory testing for PSA.
It takes about six months to train a dog to sit down, bark or otherwise indicate that a sample contains cancer cells.
Researchers say if further tests prove dogs to be reliable detectors for prostate cancer, they may try training them to sniff out other diseases.
That technology may be a long way off, because the dog’s sense of smell is still far superior to the best electronic sniffing devices on the market.