Dogs trained to sniff out cancer

  • Tuesday, November 12, 2013

With training, dogs like Pimlico Rural Fire’s Sully can sniff out cancer in a patient’s breath, blood or urine.


Dogs have long been praised for their ability to sniff out trouble.

Now, a new cancer detection wave sweeping the nation has turned to man’s best friend in order to keep dogs’ best friends around a little longer.

The odor detection method is also being used to help detect early stages of cancer in fire fighters.

“We are training dogs to sniff out and detect cancer in people,” said Cindy Ell, Executive Director of the Fire Fighter Cancer Foundation, and a retired firefighter, critical care paramedic and cancer survivor. “Cancer cells emit different metabolic waste products than normal cells. Their presence in cancer patients’ exhaled breath, blood, or urine is so great that they can be detected by a dog’s keen sense of smell, even in the early stages of disease.”

Ell joined DogE911 founder Genete Bowen during a recent training and information seminar at the Pimlico Rural Fire Department to raise awareness and inform local firefighters about this new concept of early cancer detection, working to extinguish fire fighter cancer.

According to Ell, the FFCF is exploring the use of early detection technology and methods to increase the proficiency of cancer and occupational disease identification.

“We are collecting breath samples for research in early cancer detection and developing companion programs to offer cancer prevention lifestyle options,” she said.

FFCF in partnership with CancerDogs is conducting a research trial using specially trained dogs and their scent detection ability.

“Cancer cells emit a different metabolic waste product than normal cells and dogs have the olfactory ability to sniff these odors out and hopefully catch cancer in patients early enough in the disease.”

With training sniffer dogs can detect early stages of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian carcinoma and breast cancer, according to the FFCF website.

Pimlico firefighter Matt Bailey served as Ell’s cancer test subject for the demonstration.

“If there is a way to detect cancer in the early stages, having dogs like this is something good to have,” he said. “Anything that might help is good.”

For more information visit the Fire Fighter Cancer Foundation website at www.ffcancer.org.

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