Friday, January 16, 2009

George, the cancer-sniffing schnauzer

I’m not a big fan of schnauzers in general, having been on the sharp end of their rather short tempers one too many times when I worked as a veterinary technician. However, I found one schnauzer who’s worthy of acclaim. His name was George.
After an illustrious and action-packed career as a bomb-sniffing dog, you’d think George would be ready for a quiet retirement; a soft couch and a pantry full of Milk Bones. Instead, like many baby boomers, he moved on to his second career: cancer sniffing dog. See, a dog’s sense of smell is 220 MILLION times stronger than a human’s. They can detect trace amounts of bomb ingredients and drugs; can even pick out money that was simply handled at the same time as narcotics. So a few brilliant individuals made a wide intuitive leap—what if a dog’s sensitive sniffer could be trained to pinpoint cancer cells?
The experiment was a sound success. After training, George could correctly identify skin melanomas 99.7% of the time. He even saved one patient’s life, by repeatedly indicating a mole on the man’s skin which had been examined by three separate doctors and biopsied twice, with negative results. George’s persistence caused doctors to completely excise the mole and send it for cell-by-cell analysis. It was found to be a Stage II melanoma. If it had been left untreated for one more year, the man would probably have died of cancer.
Unfortunately, George succumbed to a brain tumor in 2000. But his work has opened up doors for research to continue in this field, and for more dogs to prove, once and for all, that they are indeed man’s best friend.
Haven’t read Surviving Serendipity? What are you waiting for?


©Hotbutton Press said...

Wow, what a great post. If you had a Follow Me widget on this blog, I would. :)


Norm Cowie said...

I had a basset. I used to run from him and would cross paths to try and confuse him. He could tell the newer one even if it was only about thirty seconds earlier.

Mary Cunningham said...

Great post! I've seen stories about dogs that do this. Very promising.