Man says his dog detected his skin cancer

Man says his dog detected his skin cancer

A man from Banbury near Oxford, England, said his dog sniffed out his skin cancer, reminiscent of reports of trials that have shown dogs can detect cancer, in some cases even when screening tests can't.

Chris Tuffrey told the BBC yesterday that his pet Rottweiler, called Beamish, kept nuzzling and licking him and trying to get him to lift his arm. Tuffrey realized that his dog was trying to get to a mole on his chest that had been there for 15 years but he had ignored it.

He eventually went to the doctor who immediately referred him to a specialist at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. Two weeks later a test showed Tuffrey had melanoma, a rare but potentially deadly form of skin cancer.

Tuffrey has now had the cancerous mole removed.

Malignant melanoma is a cancer that grows in skin cells called melanocytes. It can start in an existing mole, as it did in Tuffrey's case, or it can start in normal looking skin. It is also the most serious form of skin cancer because it can spread to other organs (metastasis).

Melanoma can be triggered by over-exposure to the sun and by over-using sunbeds and sunlamps. It is quite rare and accounts for around 10 per cent of all cases of skin cancer but it is responsible for most of the deaths from skin cancer. According to figures from the NHS, around 1,500 people die every year from malignant melanoma.

Studies have shown that dogs' sense of smell is so sensitive that they can detect various forms of cancer to a high level of accuracy.

One study done in California in 2006 showed that dogs can detect breast and lung cancer with sensitivity and specificity between 88 and 97 per cent by smelling the breath of patients. The study also showed that trained dogs could even detect the early stages of lung and breast cancers.

Tuffrey told the BBC how he felt about Beamish:

"He's absolutely brilliant."

"I shall be grateful to him for the rest of my life," he added, describing Beamish as "a very laid back dog".

Click here for the BBC report and to see a picture of Beamish.

Source: BBC News, Archive, NHS.

Dogs Can Smell Cancer - Secret Life of Dogs - BBC (Video Medical And Professional 2020).

Section Issues On Medicine: Disease