Can Machines Really “Sniff” Out Cancer?

Dog Sniffing

With all the expensive technology and diagnostic machines out there, can you believe that all we may have needed to detect cancer from the start was a dog? That’s right, a dog.

Researchers in California conducted a test a few years back that evaluated a dogs ability to recognize lung and breast cancer just from smelling someone’s breath. Results indicated a 99% accuracy rate, which is better than typical diagnostic tests.

Really gives new meaning to the saying “a dog is a man’s best friend.” Many people have said that they think their domestic pets can sense your emotions, especially when you’re sad. Well apparently they can detect more than that with their olfactory sense.

These test dogs proved a theory: that cancer leaves some kind of distinct chemical signature on the breath. Going off of this discovery, technology companies have been tripping over themselves to create devices that can imitate a dogs’ sense of smell as well as minimize the need for biopsies and other diagnostic procedures. Metabolomx Breath Analyzer Machine

One such device designed by Metabolomx already exists. This particular machine looks like a normal desktop computer but with a hose attached to it. The machine requires a patient to breathe in and out of the hose for about five minutes and then studies the breath’s volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which give off scents that can then be identified.

Sound too easy to be accurate? Well doctors tested out the Metabolomx machine on 229 participants and established that the device could spot lung cancer in more than 80% of the participants.

Sounds like a decent percentage, but the objective now is to create a more perceptive, modernized version of the machine to test in a new set of trials and see if it can get to 93% accuracy. This figure would make the device practical for general use, according to doctors.

A version of this precision machine has been created, but is currently undergoing testing. Would you participate in the study?

Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or in the comments below.


Nadia Persaud joined the Mesothelioma Center in 2011 as the Social Media Community Analyst. She is excited to be spreading awareness about asbestos safety and new developments in the industry with our online community. If you have a story idea for Nadia, please email her at npersaud@asbestos.com.

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