There are two really important roles that your dog can play if you suspect or have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Dogs are our constant defenders and protectors even when we don’t realize that they are there for us.
First and foremost, dogs can smell cancel in humans. I have written about this when it was in context to people having lung cancer, but the same goes for breast cancer.
This is seriously not a sixth sense in dogs but an uncanny ability to smell cancer in such small quantities that it is very hard to believe; as little as one or two parts in a trillion.
German scientists have recently been conducting even more dog-smelling-cancer experiments. They trained two German Shepherds, a Labrador Retriever and an Australian Shepherd to actually smell breath samples from glass viles and alert the scientists as to which tubes contained cancerous samples. The dogs were correct with 71% of the lung cancer patients and 93% of the people who were perfectly healthy. Lung cancer has been revealed to be the most deadly of all cancers thus this experiment being so helpful.
Because the experiments were so successful, the scientists began experimenting with other types of cancer, too; cancers like breast cancer, bowel cancer, ovarian cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer and skin cancer.
Both dogs and people utilize their senses, but dogs are much better at using certain senses than we are. Where people utilize their eyes and depend on them to see things around their world, dogs use their noses in the same exact sense (no pun intended!).
Dogs have millions more scent-detecting cells in their noses than humans do and those cells contain a dense folding membrane of scent cells and nerves. This organ in people is about the size of a postage stamp but in dogs it is about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Dogs also use about 40 times more brain power than people do while interpreting smells thus allowing them to detect smells on a more minuscule level.
Although dogs are capable of helping with cancer research, they WILL NOT be used for a final diagnosis.
The second role that dogs are playing for those with breast cancer (or any cancer for that matter) is that they are so useful as therapy dogs. This is a topic that I have covered in many aspects, but have not covered what a dog can do for someone suffering from breast cancer.
Dogs help to ease anxiety and unease that patients may feel with this disease. Many people that have been diagnosed with breast cancer worry about their future and what it may bring: will there be a future impact to their health; what about finances and their jobs; how will their family deal?
This is where the dogs come in handy. Drugs such as anti-anxiety drugs can be prescribed, but those with breast cancer are already so heavily medicated, that they may choose not to have more drugs prescribed and the therapy dog is a very simple alternative treatment that is much cuter and produces less side effects than mixing drugs can do to the patient.
Many studies to this effect have been conducted in Chicago-land hospitals and their results recorded, shared and discussed. More and more research will continue to be conducted as therapy dogs are utilized in new and different aspects of treating those with breast cancer.
If you would like to obtain more information about animal-assisted therapy, contact The American Humane Association.