'My dog sniffed out my breast cancer – she's a little lifesaver'

Luna, a two-year-old Collie cross, is also known as a ‘little lifesaver’ to her owner Trisha Allison.

Why? Luna sniffed out Trisha’s breast cancer, and two weeks later on April 18 she was officially diagnosed – ultimately saving her life.

Trisha said Luna, who is crossed with a greyhound, isn’t usually a cuddly dog so she knew something was wrong when she was laying on the couch one April morning watching TV when Luna, jumped on her – catching her right breast in the process.

The pooch then kept sniffing and nudging at her chest, and laying next to her, which childminder Trisha, 50, said she never does.

After around 45 minutes, she began feeling a pain and went and checked herself out.

Trisha said: ‘Luna isn’t the most affectionate dog – she was acting unusual.

‘Around 30/45 minutes later I thought “that still hurts” and went upstairs and checked myself.

‘I had a feel and that’s when all the blood drained from my face – I had felt something that didn’t feel right.’

Trisha said that because Luna knew she had cancer she’s caught it early. She does check her breasts but not every month.

She said: ‘Because I have dense breasts I might have not banged them again for a couple of years or so – my story might have been very different.

‘I check myself anyway but I don’t check myself every week or every month. I probably check myself every couple of months.

‘It took two weeks to get the result that it was cancer but they have caught it early. I think she knew – she’s my little lifesaver.’

The following Monday, Trisha went to her GP who referred her to Nottingham City Hospital.

Doctors carried out an MRI which showed the lump was cancerous and confirmed a second lump.

Trisha was told the cancer had been found early and she’s had two operations to remove the tumours. She is now waiting to find out if she will need chemotherapy.

She said: ‘The thing is, I am a positive person, but when you are sitting in that room you have it all in your head that you are fine and that you’re not ill.

‘When they say “I am sorry to tell you it is cancer” your whole world falls apart and you just wonder what size coffin you’re going to need – it is hard to explain how you feel.’

Trisha’s next appointment is in two weeks and that will determine her next steps.

She added: ‘Every appointment is so stressful, everyone tells me to be positive but you go in being positive and get the worst news.

‘I am grateful for Luna, if it wasn’t for Luna this would be a very different story.’

Dogs really can sniff out illnesses:

Trainer Simmy Moore works for Medical Detection Dogs and teaches his pooches to sniff out cancer, Covid and Type 1 diabetes.

‘There’s Addison’s, which is cortisol imbalance that can affect your adrenal glands,’ he explains. ‘Pott’s disease is another – it can create a rapid increase in heart rate, which causes people to faint.

‘What we’re doing is using the dog’s nose, which is phenomenally powerful, to detect the onset of an episode of illnesses like these.’

The scientific basis of the ability of dogs to detect the odour of cancer is believed to be linked to volatile organic compounds produced by malignant cells.

It has been established that during tumour growth changes occur in some of the cellular proteins, leading to peroxidation of the cell membrane components, which then produces volatile organic compounds that can be detected in the headspace of the cells.

Source: Medical Detection Dogs

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