Firefighters get screened for cancer with ‘cancer dogs’
The Austin Firefighters Association teamed up with Cancer Dogs, an organization that uses specially trained dogs to sniff out signs of cancer
By FireRescue1 Staff
AUSTIN, Texas — A fire union teamed up with an organization that uses dogs to sniff out cancer to screen firefighters.
The experimental group based in Canada has been working specifically with firefighters for several years. According to their website, the group has tested over 40 U.S. fire departments and over 20,000 people since 2011.
“There have been lots of scientific journals and articles about dogs detecting cancer but it had gone largely ignored,” Cancer Dog Director Glenn Ferguson said. “This is lifesaving technology. It's just like how we find dogs to find people in a disaster for search and rescue. It's very important work and dogs are capable of doing this and [are] recognized for that ability.”
Ferguson’s six hounds and beagles were taught how to target smell using breath samples from cancer patients before they underwent treatment.
“We place those samples amongst controls of healthy people and people who have other medical conditions so the dogs can find cancer, but also ignore other medical issues,” Ferguson said.
For the screening, firefighters breathe into a provided mask for 10 minutes.
“We place the masks in the pull bottles, put them in trays and put them on what we call a sniffing station,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said the process finds cancer with 60 percent sensitivity.
"The Cancer Dog program is a good extra tool in the toolbox, but it's not everything. It is something that can help you go down that next step to take additional testing," Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks said.