Paddy the dog 'sniffs out' owner's breast cancer

media captionKarin Gibson said her dog alerted her to the fact that she had breast cancer.

A woman has claimed that her pet dog sniffed out the early signs of her breast cancer.

Karin Gibson, 62, from Hilsea, Portsmouth, was prompted to visit her doctor after her Labrador kept pawing at the affected area.

"Thankfully he's the trigger that got me to my GP so early," she said.

Cancer Research said it is thought some tumours produce molecules which can be picked up by dogs with an astounding sense of smell.

Ms Gibson, a retired science teacher, noticed her Paddy was acting differently when she returned from holiday on 14 August, and by the end of the month she decided to visit her GP.

A biopsy and mammogram took place on 4 September and less than two weeks later, it was confirmed she had a small but invasive carcinoma of the right breast.

Ms Gibson is due to have an operation on 1 October.

image captionPaddy acted like a 'Superglue dog' when Karin returned from holiday, she said

She said her cancer had been detected "extremely early".

"Paddy's always been a very affectionate dog but when I came back from holiday his behaviour completely changed," she explained.

"He became a 'Superglue dog'. He jumped on me, he smelled my breath, he looked into my eyes, he nudged my breast.

"I thought, this is weird, and I thought I better get checked over."

The surgical procedure involves removing the lump and surrounding tissue.

Plucky Paddy

If it has spread further, she said she will have to return for a mastectomy, which would require the removal of the breast.

But she is positive thanks to plucky Paddy's early detection abilities.

"They're hoping with the lumpectomy and some radiotherapy I shall be absolutely fine," she said.

She was "absolutely gobsmacked" Paddy may have detected her cancer.

"I rescued him because he was abandoned as a puppy and he's now rescued me," she said.

Dr Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK's science information manager, described her story as "amazing".

"I'm very much a dog person… it shows a human's best friend can be extremely useful.

"We know many cancers produce molecules that are smelly, they're called 'volatile molecules'.

"We can't necessarily smell them ourselves but dogs' noses are very sensitive and there's currently a study looking at whether highly trained dogs can detect prostate cancer."

Dogs that detect cancer

  • All dogs and breeds have the capability to detect cancer, especially those with a high hunt drive
  • Typically, Labradors and Working Spaniels are trained as cancer detection dogs as they have good noses and love searching and hunting for toys
  • About 30% of their brain is dedicated to analysing odour, including the minute smells associated with many cancers

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