Doctor trains dog to detect cancer and gets diagnosed herself
A doctor, who was training her dog to be able to detect cancer in humans, ended up being the first person her Labrador, Daisy, diagnosed.
The dog, which was usually placid, began behaving anxiously and was unusually attentive, which is the exact behaviour she had been taught to display when sensing cancer.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Dr Guest said: “She kept jumping up on me. One day she bumped into my chest with her nose. It was unusually sore, and there seemed to be a lump there. I had a fine needle biopsy, but it came back clear.”
Training dogs to detect the disease is a controversial technique that uses the animal’s acute sense of smell to pick up the chemicals given off by tumour cells.
After Daisy continued to behave in a strange and unsettling way, Dr Guest underwent a core needle biopsy and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She ended up undergoing the required treatment and has since been given the all clear.
Dr Guest is sure that had she not had the early warning from Daisy, she would have ended up having a very poor prognosis. She told the Telegraph that she has her dog to thank for her survival.
These events took place in 2009, when the dog was just a puppy and the charity – Medical Detection Dogs - was only a year old. Daisy is now the charity organisation’s foremost “advanced cancer dog” that is able to detect different cancers through smell.
The dogs can detect cancers by smelling a patient’s urine, breath or skin.
Daisy is one of a number of dogs that are being trained as “pattern recognition biosensors” in order to detect cancer in this way.
Some medical experts are sceptical about the science behind this method of cancer detection, however, Dr Guest has always been a strong believer in it.
Dr Guest is the charity’s head, and she was demonstrating the methods at the charity’s base in Milton Keynes.
She set up a metal “carousel” which held eight different samples, one of which was from a prostate cancer patient.
After receiving the command “seek-seek”, Daisy sniffed each sample and after sniffing the sample from the cancer patient, she stopped, sat, sniffed it a second time and barked, according to the Telegraph. She had correctly located the cancer.
Dr Guest was adamant that though some days are better than others, her accuracy rate is at least 76%.
Two doctors, Hywel Williams and Andreas Pembroke, were the first people to suggest this method and the interest in the use of dogs to sniff out cancer has recently grown.
It is yet another example of how dogs – man’s best friend – can be of a great use to us and of how science and the detection of disease is getting more and more advanced.