A marine veteran says that she owes her life to a Siberian husky who sniffed out her ovarian cancer three times.

Dog Smelled Owner’s Cancer

Stephanie Herfel said that it first happened in 2013 when the dog named Sierra started to act strangely around her. At the time, Herfel had pain in her abdomen. An emergency doctor told her it was an ovarian cyst and prescribed her pain medications.

Sierra, however, apparently made her own diagnosis and tried to tell Herfel about this.

“She put her nose on my lower belly and sniffed so intently that I thought I spilled something on my clothes,” Herfel said. “She did it a second and then a third time. After the third time, Sierra went and hid. I mean hid!”

Herfel said that her dog’s reaction was alarming enough that she decided to see a gynecologist. After some blood work and an ultrasound, she found out that she had stage 3C cancer, a serious diagnosis. She eventually underwent a full hysterectomy and had chemotherapy until April 2014.

In 2015, Sierra started to act strangely again. Herfel again discovered that this was because her cancer had returned. This happened for the third time in 2016.

In November, Herfel marked her five years of survival since she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She earlier said that she was enrolled in a clinical trial for 26 months and that her latest scan was clear.

“Sierra smelled my cancer not only the first time by smelling my belly and hiding, but hid on my two recurrences where my scan showed an area of suspicion and I had to wait 3-4 months for another scan to confirm – she was right!” Herfel shared on Facebook.

Can Dogs Sniff Cancer?

Herfel’s oncologist David Kushner said that Sierra’s ability was not a fluke or a lucky guess. The dogs’ powerful noses have 300 million sensors. Humans have only 5 million. They also have a second smelling device in the backs of their nose, known as Jacobson’s organ, that humans do not have.

This double smelling system allows some dogs to detect the unique odors of cancer called volatile organic compounds.

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