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Baltimore Woman Credits Hero Dog In Detecting Her Lung Cancer

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A 9-year-old German Shepherd-Lab mix named Heidi is being credited by a Baltimore woman in the detection of her early-stage lung cancer. The woman, 53-year-old Anne Wills, believes that Heidi saved her life by providing the early warning.

Wills said that starting in February, the search-and-rescue dog would “barricade” her after she sat down and tried to prevent her from getting back up. “She would scratch my arm, and she was very panic stricken and panting a lot”, she explained.

Heidi’s strange behavior continued to grow even stranger. Wills says that after a week, the dog began stuffing her nose into her chest while breathing deeply.

She would scratch my arm, and she was very panic stricken and panting a lot.

Wills decided to take Heidi to a vet to find out if there was something wrong with the dog, but Heidi checked out just fine. Bewildered, Wills wondered if the dog could have sensed something wrong with her, so she decided to pay the doctor’s office a visit.

Just one day after a receiving CAT scan, Wills was called by her physicians who informed her of three spots of cancer in her lungs. The cancer was in such an early stage that doctors were confident it could be taken care of. However, if she hadn’t acted on it so fast, the cancer could have spread to other parts of her body, making it incurable.

According to the Baltimore Sun, studies from as early as 2004 have documented the ability of dogs to detect, with some reliability, bladder, lung and breast cancers. More recently, dogs were able to identify prostate cancer.

Cindy Otto, a veterinarian from the University of Pennsylvania, commented on the amazing ability of dogs to detect cancers, saying that while it may be plausible, it’s unclear how it could be integrated into standard health care practices.

I don’t think we should doubt dogs can do this, but how we translate it into practical use is the question. Maybe someday screening for ovarian cancer will be routine like a pap smear.

That said, whether this superhero like ability can or cannot be applied to other cases doesn’t make Heidi any less of a hero. In addition to saving Wills’ life, she has saved several other lives in search-and-rescue missions, and has helped locate nearly 2,000 missing pets.

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