By Jack Gerard from In The Cloud Copy
Medical response dogs are trained to recognize potential medical problems with their owners, alerting them or someone else when they detect a problem. However, some dogs are able to detect potentially serious problems even without specialized training. This was the case for Stephanie Herfel and her Husky, Sierra; not only did Sierra detect cancer that Stephanie’s doctor missed, but she did it four separate times.
More than a Cyst
The first time that Sierra found cancer in Stephanie was in 2013. Having recently moved to Wisconsin from California, Stephanie was surprised to find herself gaining weight despite not making changes to her diet or exercise routine. In the end she gained at least 60 pounds, and the weight gain ended up being accompanied by severe abdominal pain. Going to the doctor, she was diagnosed with a benign ovarian cyst.
Taking medication for the pain, Stephanie went on vacation a few months later. Upon returning, however, Sierra pressed her nose against Stephanie’s belly and pressed against it intently. When Stephanie made her stop, the dog curled up in a ball and seemed highly distressed. Thinking that Sierra was trying to tell her something, Stephanie made another appointment and was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer.
A Silent Killer
Stephanie’s cancer is often deadly as it has few, if any, symptoms. Even those symptoms that can occur with her type of cancer often mimic less severe ailments. Misdiagnosis is common, and in many cases, women do not even think to go to the doctor until it is too late to effectively treat the cancer. Stephanie’s doctor was impressed with Sierra, stating that if dogs can sense cancer then they are usually highly accurate. During a 10-hour surgery, Stephanie’s tumor was removed and she was declared cancer free.
The Cancer Returns
Unfortunately for Stephanie, her cancer returned. Approximately 18 months later, Sierra repeated her strange behavior while Stephanie was on a trip for the Fourth of July. Her travel companions assumed that the behavior was just anxiety about being in a new place, but Stephanie was worried. Getting a CT scan upon returning, she found out that the cancer was back and had spread to her liver. She was successfully treated and declared cancer free once again.
Ongoing Health Concerns
After Stephanie’s treatment, her cancer was in remission for approximately 33 months. When it returned again, it was once again in her ovaries. When Sierra detected the cancer this time, Stephanie wasted no time getting checked out because she knew that the dog had saved her life before. She received radiation and chemotherapy for stage 3 ovarian cancer, and after remission, had to undergo treatment when Sierra detected cancer once again.
Dogs and Cancer
Though it may seem odd, Sierra’s case isn’t unique. A study published earlier in 2019 in the journal Experimental Biology found that some dogs had the ability to detect cancer with around 97 percent accuracy. The ability doesn’t appear to be breed specific, though it is not entirely understood what causes certain dogs to have the ability. It does serve as a reminder that it can be worthwhile to pay attention when the animals in your life start acting strangely, however, as you never know what they might be trying to tell you.
Check out the original article here.