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Paging Dr. Pooch: Dogs almost as accurate as colonoscopies

doggy-doc

Man’s best friend may also be his cutest diagnostician.

Researchers found that a specially trained labrador retriever given patients’ breath samples was at least 95% as accurate as colonoscopies at detecting colon cancer. When given stool samples to sniff, the dog was 98% accurate.

The research was published in GUT, a leading gastroenterology journal.

Marine, an 8-year-old female black Labrador retriever from the St. Sugar Cancer Sniffing Dog Training Center in Japan, was first trained in 2003 as a water-rescue pooch. She began her career in health care a few years later, and can detect up to 12 different types of cancer by smell.

Marine was able to accurately detect virtually all of the patient samples that indicated cancer, researchers said, including very early-stage samples. Nor was she confused by patient samples that were indicative of other diseases or those from smokers.

Although less invasive and more cuddly than colonoscopies, doggie kisses are unlikely to become a common diagnostic test, for a few reasons. (You can fill in your own obligatory dog-sniffing-crotch joke here.)

But researchers hope dogs like Marine can help them identify the organic compounds that identify a cancer, and develop improved early cancer-detection tests. A less invasive test would be particularly useful for colon cancer, since only about 40% of people receive recommended screenings.

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