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I love practicing medicine because every day there is a mystery to ponder and I also hear great patient stories! The daughter of one of my patients is a remarkable woman whose amazing dog has been trained for search and rescue and as a “cadaver dog.” These are tough jobs for both dog and master and I’m grateful there are people like her willing to do them. In these photos you can see the intelligence on Chester’s adorable face!

She told me that some months ago, Chester began sniffing along her mother’s back and indicating that he had found something. It turns out, what he’d found was the cancer affecting her mother’s vertebral column as a result of lesions from multiple myeloma.

In fact, dogs are being trained to find cancer. I found this interesting article about “In Situ”, a nonprofit cancer-dog training organization. Each In Situ dog trains for up to eight months, smelling samples of breath, plasma, urine, and saliva provided by physicians. Eventually the dogs are able to distinguish between a healthy sample and one in which cancer is present.

I can’t help but imagine the ways that we could use trained canines in wound management. For example, I wonder if Chester could find pressure injuries that haven’t yet become visible but in which there is deep tissue death? No diagnostic is terribly promising and they aren’t easy to implement. Something to ponder in a high tech world.


Dr. Fife sees patients at the CHI St. Luke's Hospital Wound Clinic in The Woodlands, Texas. For an appointment call (936) 266-2150.



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