Dog saves her owner's life - by sniffing out cancer

Missy appearing on Good Morning Britain with owner Allison. Credit: Good Morning Britain

When Alison Powell's four-year-old Labrador Missy would not stop sniffing and pawing her, she knew it was more than simple canine affection.

Allison told Good Morning Britainthat after months of Missy's pestering, she eventually decided to take a trip to the doctor, who discovered a small lump in her left breast.

Allison was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and underwent a life-saving double mastectomy - all thanks to her pet's persistence.

Dogs' apparent ability to sniff out cancer was first noted in a letter medical magazine The Lancet back in 1989.

A further study in 2004 claimed to show that dogs could detect bladder cancer in patients' urine samples and it has also been suggest they may be able to detect lung, bladder and bowel cancer.

Watch specially trained dog Jack sniffing out cancerous cells.

Now charity Medical Detection Dogs(whose patron is the Duchess of Cornwall) is helping conduct further research into the phenomenon.

MDD's chief executive Dr Claire Guest says if it is shown dogs can detect the disease "it will change what we know about the diagnosis of all cancer".

One theory is that dogs sniff out volatile chemicals given off by cancerous cells.

Dr Guest says that if this is proven to be correct, it could herald innovations such as a breast cancer breath test for women too young to undergo a routine mammogram.

GMB's resident doctor, Hilary Jones, said there was certainly the potential for dogs to help improve detection, but warned it was "vastly expensive" to train the animals.