Bring the dogs out, it’s time to sniff cancer and predict many other crises

Sunday March 19 2017

A canine unit police officer inspects a taxi outside the Grand Central Station in New York on September 9, 2011.  PHOTO | MLADEN | ANTONOV | AFP

A canine unit police officer inspects a taxi outside the Grand Central Station in New York on September 9, 2011. Bio-Detection Dogs are trained to find the odour of diseases such as cancer in breath, swabs and urine samples. PHOTO | MLADEN | ANTONOV | AFP 

By GERRY LOUGHRAN
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Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among men in Britain, but it is difficult to diagnose reliably. Now experts believe they have found a surer method: They use dogs.

One study showed specially trained Bio-Detection Dogs can pick up the presence of such cancer in 93 per cent of cases, by sniffing the men’s urine.

Although there is a high survival rate among sufferers from prostate cancer, there are also about 11,000 deaths per year in the UK, and swift and accurate diagnosis is a major counter-measure.

Experts thought, if sniffer dogs can be used to detect illegal drugs at airports, why not use their amazing sense of smell in health research? An independent charity, Medical Detection Dogs, trains the animals to detect the odour of human disease.

There are two types: Medical Alert Assistance Dogs detect minute changes in an individual person’s odour and alert them to an impending seizure or crisis by barking or pawing.

Bio-Detection Dogs are trained to find the odour of diseases such as cancer in breath, swabs and urine samples. The best dog breeds are Labradors and working spaniels. They live a normal life as pets with their owners, but do detection work two to four times a week.

SNIFFING OUT SAMPLES

At the charity’s training centre at Great Horwood, the dogs work for short periods of about 20 minutes in a bio-detection room, sniffing out samples on a rotating carousel.

A charity spokesman said: “It is important the dogs have good noses and love hunting for toys. With their incredible sense of smell, canines can detect the minute odours now understood to be associated with many cancers.”

The dogs are rewarded with a food treat or ball play when they make an accurate assessment of the samples they are working on.

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It’s the best thing I’ve seen on telly in months. American professor Robert Kelly is giving a live interview from his home about the political situation in South Korea. Suddenly the door behind him opens and a happy little girl in a yellow jumper comes dancing into the room.

The embarrassed professor apologises to the amused BBC interviewer and attempts desperately to remember what he was saying when, yes, a little boy comes gliding through the door in a child’s walker.

Finally, a panicky lady hurtles into the room, grabs the children and hustles them out, pulling the door shut while on her knees.

The little domestic drama lasts less than one minute but the clip has been viewed hundreds of millions of times. The scene-stealers were the professor’s children, Marion, aged four, and James, 18 months, and the lady was his Korean wife, Jung-a Kim.

VULNERABLE TO ASSAULT

Of course, the PC sourpusses had to get in on the act. Some TV stations and many bloggers wrongly assumed that the lady in question was a servant, partly because, unlike the professor’s family, she had Asiatic features.

“Racists,” they shouted, “stereotypers.”

Something similar happened here when Judge Lindsey Kushner, in her last case before retiring, jailed a man in Manchester for rape. Noting that the victim had been drinking, she said girls were “perfectly entitled to drink themselves into the ground,” but should realise this made them more vulnerable to assault.

Her remarks did not sit well with Northumbria Police Commissioner Dame Vera Baird, who said the judge was blaming the victim. “Let’s be clear,” she said, “it’s the man’s fault.”

Of course, but surely if some creep decides he wants to rape a girl, he will choose one who is less able to defend herself. The judge was merely stating the obvious.

***
Here’s a genius idea — a washing machine with a curry button!

Panasonic launched the machine for the Indian market after many customers said they found it difficult to remove curry stains from their clothes.

Development took two years of testing combinations of water temperature and water flow. The machine has five other cycles aimed at the local consumer, including one to remove traces of hair oil. Since only about 10 per cent of homes in India have a washing machine, there is plenty of room for market growth.

Many British housewives will hope this country will not be bypassed. Indian food is very popular in the UK, with former foreign secretary Robin Cook describing chicken tikka masala as a “true British national dish”.

***

A patient comes round from surgery and the man in the next bed asks what his operation was for. “I got castrated,” he replied.

“Castrated!” His neighbour was aghast. “That’s a bit severe, isn’t it?” “Well,” he said, “I admit the doctors seemed very reluctant, but I insisted.” Then he asked, “What about you, what are you in for?”

“I’m going to be circumcised.”

There was a long pause before the reply came: “THAT’S the word.”