Man’s real best friend may be his best friend’s nose. Dogs’ sense of smell is incredibly powerful, but it wasn’t until recently that scientists began siccing that sense on cancerous tumors. Researchers wondered if canines could be trained to smell the chemical difference between patients with cancer and those without. So far, the results have been promising. Studies show test dogs can accurately pick out patients with lung, breast, ovarian and bladder cancers. In some cases, the pups have hit accuracy rates as high as 97 percent.
But don’t book an appointment with Dr. Beagle just yet. The detection method is still in its early stages of research. To really prove that dog detection can work, researchers will need to show that dogs can identify afflicted patients who haven’t yet been diagnosed by traditional means, as opposed to using previously diagnosed cancer patients and healthy controls. Critics argue the dogs might not be smelling cancer, but instead some olfactory evidence of lifestyle differences between healthy people, and those who are already addressing (and worrying about) an illness.