ACTCM alumna, P. Ella Woods, DAOM, LAc, recently was spotlighted in the “Ask the Vet” column in the San Francisco Chronicle/SFgate.com
Question: About one year ago, my friend’s dog suddenly became very fearful of her for no reason. Wouldn’t sleep with her, join her for walks and would even leave the room if she entered it. Just recently, my friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
I’ve heard that dogs are being used to detect cancer. Is it possible her dog sensed that something was wrong?
Ella’s Answer: Yes. There are published studies that explore the ability of dogs to detect cancer through their phenomenal sense of smell. Scientists theorize that dogs are able to detect the volatile organic compounds produced by tumors.
It has been estimated that the average dog’s sense of smell is at least several thousand to several million times more keen than a human’s sense of smell. Certainly, we know that the human body smells different, even to a human nose, if significant biochemical changes are going on inside it – for example, if garlic has been consumed.
If someone is in kidney failure, their breath and body odor change. So is it any wonder that a body might smell differently if such a significant change as tumor development is taking place?
Studies are being conducted all over the world to explore this phenomenon in hopes of harnessing this canine ability in order to provide simple methods for early cancer detection. Papers on canine scent detection of malignancies such as melanoma and bladder, lung and breast cancer have recently been published in peer-reviewed journals, indicating a new diagnostic tool for cancer.
Some studies focus on the dog’s ability to detect odors associated with cancer, such as inflammation or metabolic products. Other studies are focusing on determining whether specific cancers emit specific odors and whether those odors can be detected by dogs.
From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, your friend’s dog might have sensed that something was awry. In that theory, masses (cancerous or benign) are evidence of profound stagnation of blood, dampness/phlegm and Qi (energy). Stagnation can lead to a certain tenseness and irritability. Animals are very sensitive to our moods and often choose to leave tense situations.
Ella Woods, doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine, San Francisco Veterinary Specialists. www.sfvs.net.
This article appeared on page E – 8 of the San Francisco Chronicle