Oncology (General Cancer)/dogs that can detect cancer

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Question
Hello, Dr. Higby!

I received your replies last year, to a variety of concerns dealing with cancer.
One of them had to do with an unexplained loss of weight.
I continue to lose weight, so I am worried. My PCP suggests that a CT scan should be considered.
I am worried about the radiation effects of the CT scan. What do you think?

I've heard quite a bit about the ability of dogs sniffing to detect cancer. Their results appear to be very accurate. What do you think about this?
I'd like to know if there is a cancer care facility that trains and houses such dogs. All the articles that I've seen on this subject speak only of dog owners having their cancers detected by their pets. Your comments, please.

Thanks for your reply,

Chris

Answer
Although the dog issues are interesting, we have no way of telling how often it works and the dogs haven't been able to tell where the cancer is or where it might have spread.  I wouldn't do that if I were worried about cancer.  I think a CT scan would be a good thing to do.  There are many possible reasons for weight loss besides cancer, however.  As for the radiation dose, a whole-body CT scan will give you an extremely small dose of radiation.  In the survivors of the Hiroshima bombing, those who received the equivalent of what a CT scan gives had, if anything, a very small increase in the lifetime risk of cancer.  On the other hand, if you have cancer and the CT scan finds it, it's a worthwhile trade off.  Please follow your doctor's advice.  Hope this helps.  

Oncology (General Cancer)

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Donald Higby, M.D.

Expertise

I can answer almost all questions related to the treatment and natural course of most kinds of cancer, especially cancers of prostate, colon, lung and breast.

Experience

I have been a practicing medical oncologist for 36 years, and have been chief of service at a major medical center for 25 years. I've also done research in cancer treatments.

Organizations
American Society of Clinical Oncology

Publications
New England Journal of Medicine American Journal of Medicine Journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Hematology Transfusion Medicine

Education/Credentials
MD, Stanford University Internal Medicine residency, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO Medical Oncology Fellowship, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

Awards and Honors
America's Best Physicians, last 14 years

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