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Can Dogs Detect Skin Cancer?

The latest on:

Can Dogs Detect Skin Cancer?

Know the 3 types of skin cancer:

skin cancer types

20% of Americans will Develop Skin Cancer

Can Dogs Detect Skin Cancer?

Yes, dogs have shown potential in detecting skin cancer. They have demonstrated remarkable olfactory abilities, as they can detect chemicals released by cancerous cells, which cause subtle changes in skin cells. A study conducted at the University of Arkansas screened volunteers for basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, and then trained dogs to detect the disease on the basis of breath and skin samples taken from the volunteers. The dogs’ sniffing accuracy rate was over 95%. Another study by the Medical Detection Dogs charity found that dogs detected melanoma, another type of skin cancer, through breath samples with 93% accuracy.

While it’s important to note that these studies are still limited and further research is necessary to fully understand the capabilities of dogs in skin cancer detection, this early evidence does show potential for using dogs in early cancer detection efforts.

Understanding skin cancer funamentals

How Can Dogs Detect Skin Cancer?

A dog’s sense of smell is incredibly sensitive, often described as being thousands of times better than a human’s sense of smell. Dogs have up to 300 million scent receptors, whereas humans have only about 5 million. This means that dogs can detect scents in amounts as small as a few parts per trillion, whereas humans can only detect scents in amounts of parts per million. In addition, dogs have a specialized organ called the vomeronasal organ, located in the roof of their mouth, which allows them to detect pheromones and other chemicals that humans cannot detect. Because of their exceptional sense of smell, dogs are often used in various tasks such as detecting drugs, bombs, contraband, missing persons, cancer and other diseases, and even COVID-19. Overall, a dog’s sense of smell is incredibly powerful and remarkable.

When it comes to cancer, dogs have been trained by researchers to use their olfactory capabilities to detect the unique odor emitted by skin cancer cells in the skin and other tissues. Cancerous cells release volatile organic compounds or VOCs on the skins’s surface that dogs are highly sensitive to. These volatile organic compounds mix with a person’s body odor and create a unique scent signature. When trained to recognize this scent signature, dogs can identify skin cancers with high accuracy rates, often more accurately than traditional screening methods. A dog’s ability to detect skin cancer is especially valuable as it allows for the detection of skin cancer at earlier stages, when it is more easily treated. While still in the research phase, the use of trained dogs as a non-invasive diagnostic tool for detecting skin cancers has shown promise in helping to save human lives.

Not all skin cancer causes the same effects.

How Do Dogs Act When they Detect Skin Cancer?

It has been proven that they can detect skin cancer by smelling a person’s breath or skin. When dogs detect skin cancer, they may exhibit certain behaviors such as sniffing, licking or nudging the area of concern. They may also become more attentive and focused on the person, exhibiting signs of concern or distress.

Dogs can be trained to detect skin cancer using scent detection training. This involves training dogs to identify specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are found in cancerous cells. When they detect these VOCs, they are trained to give a specific indication to their handler, such as sitting or scratching.

Overall, if you suspect you may have skin cancer, a trained dog may be able to detect it. However, it is important to note that a dog’s detection is not a substitute for medical diagnosis and treatment.

Training for cancer detection

Can My Dog Be Trainded to Detect Cancer?

Training a dog to detect skin cancer involves a specific set of steps. First, a dog is selected based on their breed and their natural aptitude for scent detection. Then, they are trained to detect the odor of cancer cells by rewarding them for correctly identifying a sample of cancer cells. This is done using a process called positive reinforcement training, where the dog is given a treat or praise every time they correctly identify the cancer cells. Once the dog has learned to identify the cancer cells, they are trained to identify the odor of the cells on a person’s skin. This is done by using samples of cancerous and non-cancerous tissues obtained from surgical samples and/or a laboratory. Finally, the dog is introduced to patients with skin cancer and trained to identify the cancerous tissue on the patient’s skin. This process takes several months of training, and handlers must continue to maintain the dog’s training throughout their working life.

Early detection is critical to successful treatments

What should I do if I suspect I have skin cancer?

If someone suspects that they have skin cancer, the first step is to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. They are experts in detecting and diagnosing skin cancer. During the appointment, the dermatologist will examine the skin closely and may take a tissue sample for a biopsy in case a suspicious mole is found. The biopsy results will help determine whether the mole is cancerous or not.

If a mole is confirmed to be cancerous, the dermatologist will discuss treatment options with the affected person. The treatment option usually depends on the type of skin cancer, the size, and location of the tumor. Treatment options may include surgical excision, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. It is also important for someone who suspects they have skin cancer to practice good sun protection habits, such as wearing protective clothing and sunscreen daily and avoiding prolonged sun exposure. Overall, early detection and treatment of skin cancer can significantly improve a person’s chances of a positive outcome and prevent potential complications.

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