When she was a puppy, Dr Guest began training her doggy companion to sniff out the killer disease in urine and breath samples. Medical dogs are trained by sniffing samples of people already diagnosed with cancer and those of people without the disease so they can learn to tell the difference. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell thanks to 300million scent receptors in their noses, compared to a measly five million in the human nose.
The very first time she detected the disease actually growing in someone’s body, rather than by sniffing a sample, it was in her companion's body.
Dr Guest, chief executive of UK's charity Medical Detection Dogs, said: ‘Daisy seemed to be pawing at my chest. She bumped against my body repeatedly. I pushed her away, but she nuzzled against me again, clearly upset. She pushed me so hard that it bruised me.
‘Her behaviour was totally out of character – she was normally such a happy dog ... I felt the tender area where she’d pushed me, and over the next few days I detected the tiniest lump.
‘The bump was a perfectly harmless cyst. But further in the breast tissue was a deep-seated cancer.’
As newly instated senior consultant, Daisy is now helping to train a team of 12 dogs at Medical Detection Dogs for the UK’s first ever trial using canines to detect breast cancer.
See Daisy's picture and story here.
Published studies have shown that dogs can detect early stage cancer with 88% specificity, and 99% sensitivity. Dogs could help provide an extremely accurate, low-cost, non-invasive, early detection screening for cancer. Right now, early detection is our greatest cure.
I wish a dog still graced our lives. Early detection could have saved my husband ongoing treatment for prostate cancer, another area where dogs excel.
Have you experienced a dog's remarkable skill?