Guest Authors Medical and Science

Should Cancer Sniffing Robots or Dogs Detect Human Cancer?

Cancer Dog
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicenseAltered Image: Original photo by  bazusa

Let me put my cancer cutting robot on pause for a moment, because I have some news for you.
Technology sure has come a long way.
We are living in a day when cancer – while still not curable (but may be preventable) – can be sniffed out by robots with knives. Yes, I said it correctly, a robot sniffs out cancer on your body, and then cuts it off with a knife.
What’s next? Robots with lasers that sniff out cancer?

UK Robot Can Perform Cancer Surgery

Scientists at London’s Imperial College have created a robot called the “iKnife” that uses an electrosurgical knife to cut tissue and instantly do a mass spectrometer to do an instant chemical analysis.
This technology is used to determine where the cancer starts and ends, because human surgeons often have difficulty determining where all of the cancer is. This can result in leaving some of the cancer cells behind.
This surgical robot can instantly determine where the cancer is, using an electric current to essentially “sniff” it out. The iKnife is still experimental at this point, and the prototype was created at about $300,000.00 USD.
The full story on the iKnife cancer removing robot can be read here.

What Happened to The Cancer Sniffing Dogs?

Specially trained dogs can sniff out various cancers, including ovarian and breast cancer in women to prostate cancer in men. The only difference is, they won’t cut it out for you, like the iKnife robot in the UK. More importantly, there is currently no standard test to detect ovarian cancer in women.

Dogs Sniffing Cancer Test Findings

  • A test in Germany in 2011 showed that dogs could be trained to sniff out lung cancer from only breath samples
  • Japan found that a black lab could smell bowel cancer from a patient’s breath and stool samples (source here)
  • A Doctor in Israel has research to back up dogs can differentiate cancerous cells from non-cancerous (source here)
  • “Dog accuracy in cancer sniffing have been proven to be 88% specific and 99% sensitive in the early detection of lung and breast cancer” –

So Why Aren’t We Relying on Dogs for More Cancer Tests?
Dogs have been trained to sniff out cancer since the early 2000’s, but Doctors and Scientists remain skeptical about relying on dogs. Dogs are able to smell cancerous substances excreted via urine into cups, which are then put to the sniff test.
The experts maintain that there are logistical reasons that the use of dogs to detect cancer are not widespread.
Dr. Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society says the dog experiments are not there yet in terms of being proven in a laboratory tested environment. On top of that, Lichtenfeld says it is simply not practical.
“Any time you’re talking about a live animal being trained and being capable of looking at millions of tests, the logistics of that would be problematic,” says Dr. Lichtenfeld.

How Much Does it Cost?

It costs about $35,000.00 USD and 1,200 hours of training to train a dog to sniff cancer in the U.S. (
It costs about £50,000 to train a cancer sniffing dog in the UK, if you are not sponsored or in a subsidized program. If a program like the Medical Detection Dogs accepts a dog into their program, it is around £10,000 (includes training and ongoing support).

*It is best to consider dog breeds that have a friendly personality, and have a good sense of smell.

Could a person first detect cancer with a dog sniff test, then demand that the iKnife be used to cut it out?
Why, certainly.

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18 thoughts on “Should Cancer Sniffing Robots or Dogs Detect Human Cancer?
  1. That is a very good point, istiak. I don’t know if dogs can detect if blood sugar is too high or too low. That would be a very interesting experiment to conduct.

  2. well, given the smelling ability of the dogs, it can be true to some extent.
    But, it is also a fact that:
    to date, cancer is incurable!

    1. You are correct, yogesh, cancer is incurable, but it is preventable. Dogs are very handy in finding cancer.

  3. This is extremely a good news to understand, particularly for folks like Maine World Health Organization have a cancer patient reception

    1. I do not know about the Maine World Health Organization. Who are they and what do they do?

  4. The cost of training these dogs is quite viable if one considers the cost of developing conventional technology, and the cost of high tech diagnoses. Best of all, dog detection is completely non-invasive.

    1. Steve,
      I agree with you. These dogs can help save lives with early detection. It makes me want to train one myself. But my three cats wouldn’t appreciate this.

  5. It really too bad disease for dogs. I don’t thing there would be any solution after such disease !! Your article really be beneficial for us !!

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