In the fight against cancer, so often the disease seems to be one-step ahead of researchers and health care providers. And anything that gives health professionals an advantage—advanced patient screenings, genetic indicators, etc.—is an important part of the battle. One new method might be the most effective and least invasive of any existing tool, if a little cold and wet… 

The same dogs that help police find criminals, airport security locate contraband, and hunters seek prey may be able to actually detect lung cancer in patients’ breath. A new study out of Schillerhoehe Hospital in Germany, published by the European Respiratory Journal, described how four dogs sniffed out lung cancer compounds in the breath of 71 out of 100 patients. The specially trained dogs (two German shepherds, a Lab, and an Australian shepherd) smelled 220 breath samples, with a mix of lung cancer and chronic pulmonary disease patients and healthy volunteers. It’s the first study of its kind of show dogs could be used as a reliably cancer detection method.

Dogs have actually been found to be able to smell skin, breast, and colorectal cancers already. But with lung cancer, the most deadly and notoriously difficult to detect form of cancer, it’s a notable breakthrough. 

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