The medical journal Gut, recently reported a study in which a dog could sniff out colorectal cancers; and could do it as accurately as a colonoscopy. A trained Labrador Retriever could identify the volatile organic compounds in the stool that identified cancer. The dog could even tell the difference between a cancer and a benign polyp (you can’t even do that on colonoscopy).

This study shows that a specific cancerous smell exists. I’ve known this for a long time because my Hopi Indian friend and mentor Bill Dalton (The Dancing Healers, 1988, Chap. 11) could also smell it . Bill had an extraordinary sense of smell, he could smell rain, and predict whether it would be a drizzle or a downpour; he could smell the difference between a wolf, bear or mountain lion.

This study is important because there are 150,000 new colorectal cancers discovered every year, of whom a third will die. The early detection of these cancers is critical because when they’re found in early noninvasive stages the disease is 90% curable.

Doctors recommend that colonoscopy be performed on everyone over 50, and if normal repeated every 5 years. If there is a family history of colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease one should start earlier. Colonoscopy is the visible examination of the lower bowel through a flexible, illuminated instrument inserted into the anus. It’s an expensive, invasive procedure, done under anesthesia in an ambulatory surgicenter (average cost is $2,300).

There are at least 65 million Americans over the age of 50. This means 1 out of every 5 of them (13 million people) are being scoped every year, at a cost of about $300 million, AND colonoscopy doesn’t perform any better than a dog’s nose.

I don’t think the gastroenterologists are going to be too happy about this, because  several well-trained dogs in every city could manage a great preventative health program, and a lot cheaper.

In addition to this cost-cutting miracle is this sobering teaching; if you face the shit in your life and really get your nose into it, you might get a blessing that saves your life.

Smell the roses wherever you find them.