Scientists Use Dogs to Identify Lung Cancer

January 9, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. likelihood (n.) 
[lahyk-lee-hood]– the possibility or chance that something will happen
Example: A person who eats unhealthy food has a big likelihood of getting sick.

2. in the company of (idiom.) [ihn-thee-kuhm-puh-nee-ov]– with somebody; in the presence of somebody or something
Example: Being in the company of smokers might cause one to have lung problems.

3. sniff (v.) [snif]– to smell something by quickly breathing in air in small amounts
Example: The dogs sniffed luggage in the airport to find any illegal items..

4. pulmonology (n.) [puhl-muh-no-lo-jee, pool-]– (in medicine) study of the lungs and the rest of the respiratory system
ExamplePulmonology explains how the lungs get the oxygen through the nose.

5. embark (v.) [em-bahrk]– to start or to engage in something, usually a business
Example:  Researchers studied the respiratory system before embarking on the 2-year experiment.

Read the text below.

Scientists are currently studying the ability of dogs to identify patients with lung cancer.

Lung cancer causes the highest number of cancer deaths in America. Last year, 226,000 people were diagnosed with lung cancer while 160,000 people died from the disease. The likelihood of smokers acquiring this illness is higher, but the cases of non-smoker lung cancer patients have also increased.

Lung cancer is a growing problem worldwide. With such an alarming rise in the number of lung cancer patients, Austrian scientists have been searching for ways to detect the disease earlier in order to save more lives. 

The scientists used dogs as the subject of their current study based on stories and previous studies about how these animals act strangely in the company of people with cancer.

Austrian scientists made the dogs sniff 120 breath samples taken from healthy people and from people with lung cancer. The researchers found that the dogs can successfully identify breath samples from lung cancer patients 70% of the time.

Peter Errhalt, one of the authors of the study and the head of the pulmonology department at Krems Hospital, said the dogs had no difficulty in identifying patients with cancer tumors.

Because of their success, the scientists are planning to embark on a two-year long study, which will use dogs to identify over 1,200 breath samples. In addition, scientists are trying to make “electronic noses” or medical devices that can sniff for cancer just like dogs’ noses.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Is it necessary to study animals to improve human medicine or health? What makes you say so?
·         How else are animals helpful to humans?

Discussion B

·         What do you think causes lung cancer?
·         How can people prevent lung cancer cases from increasing?


January 9, 2013