Thursday, April 29, 2010

Breast Cancer Breath

You've heard of garlic or onion breath haven't you? The unfortunate onsumption of the wrong food choice which causes this condition has ruined a lot of first dates.

Well, now we have a new contender for the date-ruining crown: breast cancer breath. And, I'm guessing that if you are hapless enough to end up with breast cancer breath, you are going to miss out on a lot more action than if you had both garlic and onion breath combined.

According to this video, from Detroit's Channel 4 news, there is a new test that can detect early breast cancer, and all you have to do to get diagnosed is to blow into a breathalyzer.

Or, apparently, into a dog.

I have many questions after viewing this report:

In the video, they open by discussing this device that will detect early breast cancer on your breath, but oddly, they cut away to a scene of a woman and her dog.

This woman is allowing the dog to lick her in the face. Don't people who let dogs lick them in the face know what dogs do with their mouths? My own personal dog loves to find little snacks in the cat box, and then lick his own male parts as a chaser. I happen to know that he never brushes his teeth. The aforementioned onion breath would be a definite improvement over what he's sporting.

Anyway, after the dog spreads e-coli all over this woman's face, she asserts that her canine companion told her she had breast cancer.

The newscaster intones, "Carol Witcher says her dog, Floyd Henry, knew something was wrong before she did."

Carol explains, "He looked at me strangely and pushed and snorted my right breast, and pushed and snorted, and pushed and snorted," Carol says. "And, I'm thinking, something's not right."

I would have to agree with that statement. Something is not right.

Now, I do know dogs have remarkable senses of smell, but if a dog sniffing you in a certain area of your body is indicative of cancer, than I really need to get myself a colonoscopy and a PAP smear. Because, my dog seems a lot more interested in what is going on down in the vajayjay area than he ever was in my boobalicious area, even though I had a big old tasty cancer practically popping through the skin. My recently deceased Labrador, who would and did eat everything, from socks to onions to watermelon to drywall, and who could sniff a raisin out of an air-conditioning vent, never even tried to diagnose my breast. My current Greyhound is a bit more picky, but see above about cat boxes: I doubt he'd turn down a nice, meaty tumor. Yet, neither of these slackers ever looked at me strangely to try and tell me that I had cancer.

Naturally, the newscaster (who happens to be an M.D.) agrees with the dog's diagnosis. "Turns out, Floyd Henry was right on track. Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer."

This is when they cut away to a scene of a gloved medical professional putting a top on a tube-like device, as the newscaster says, "This breath test confirmed the diagnosis."

(Of the dog, I might remind you.)

Charlene Bayer, PhD, who is running this breathalyzer project, says eloquently in regards to the value of this type of evaluation, "The big difference is that you go in and get your breasts crushed, or do a radiological test. What this does, is you breathe into it, and we measure just from the breath."

They don't really describe exactly what they measure, do they? Chemical compounds, is as specific as they get. I was impressed that this researcher stated that breasts were "crushed" during mammograms.

Hmmm...well, they are squeezed, they are pressed, they are squished, they are, perhaps, even tortured. But crushed? Doesn't that imply structural damage, like a car in a demolition yard? Like a soda can on recycling day? Like the hopes of a 13 year old at a dance who ends up sitting in the corner all night?

I think crushed is a pretty harsh word for a medical professional to use, don't you?

I sure hope that kind of terminology doesn't catch on in Doctor-World. Or, soon we'll be having some pretty gruesome-sounding treatments, won't we? Can you imagine how they might describe, say, a barium enema? "Mrs. Silberman, we are going to jam a big-assed tube the size of a hose up your butt, inflate a balloon, and then squirt radioactive stuff to ream you out until you scream."

The story continues with Carol talking about her doctor's prognosis, "And last May she says, 'Carol, you are cancer-free.'" Then they cut to the dog again, as Floyd Henry nods in agreement.

The newscaster confirms this, "Thanks to the breath test and a persistant pooch, Carol's breast cancer is now behind her."

Then Carol plays the harmonica as her dog howls along.


Now, here is my question: if that dog could detect Carol's cancer, and it was merely confirmed by this new breath test, aren't we spending our research dollars incorrectly?

Frankly, if I was the boss, Cesar Milan would be in charge of this particular breast cancer research. He could send out his pack to sniff the racks of women world-wide.

Cesar Milan, The Breast Whisperer.


  1. Funny, I was just thinking about this today. My chemo breath makes me CRAZY. I brush my teeth and use mouthwash several times a day.

    On the diagnosis end of things, two friends of a friend each said that their baby refused to breastfeed from the mom's right breast. Both women were later diagnosed with breast cancer...yes, in their right breast.

    AND...a woman in my support group at the Wellness Community said her cat let her know something was wrong by laying or pawing her left breast, in which she later learned, a tumor was growing.

    I think there's something to this.

  2. LOL!! I'm thinking I need to make a doctor's appt. right away. Since I've gained weight, my cat has taken to sleeping on my stomach all the time. I thought she just liked the new squishy warmness, but she must have been trying to tell me I have stomach cancer.

  3. This just made me practically roll on the floor laughing! Especially the part about your dog's "treats" and his "chaser." Boy, can I relate to those things.

    I don't really think our pets can diagnose our diseases, but if they could, imagine how this would all translate into cutting costs in healthcare - doctors' fees, co-pays, tests, you name it.

  4. Hello Ann, WOW!!! Aren’t you the expert on canine sensory systems! I am the person who is now “rolling across the floor with loud, uncontrollable laughter”. As a dog lover and dog rescuer, I am “howling” at your attempt at humor in the relationships of animals and their human companions. Evidently you spend most of your time trying to find something to amuse yourself on television or whoops, the computer writing about things of which you have no personal knowledge. As a Boxer dog lover and rescuer of 57 years, I know personally the bonds between the Boxer dogs and their humans. After just getting my breasts crushed again this past Thursday at Winship Cancer Center at Emory Hospital in Atlanta, I am certain the tube that Dr. Bayer, Georgia Tech professor has developed will be perfected and become a more useful diagnostic tool for women and the men who suspect breast cancer has invaded their bodies. For those of us who have been diagnosed with breast cancer (mine was stage III and growing rapidly) , gone thru all the tests, PET, MRI compounded about 4 different times in there, ALL the other probes, biopsies, chemo therapy, CAT scans, radiation, surgery, pain, heartbreak as you watch your family try to “keep up a good front” in your presence, and the lists just continue---the loss of a breast and the “finding NEW STRENGTH through a very close personal relationship with God (sure you will laugh at that also) and moving to the diagnosis of “Carol, you are cured”----I WILL ALWAYS SING AND PLAY THE HARMONICA FOR THE DOCTORS WHO TREATED ME, THE NURSES, THE TECHS, DOOR ATTENDANTS WHO GREETED ME EVERY DAY FOR WEEKS ON END AND EVERY PERSON AT EMORY ATLANTA WHO PRAYED FOR ME AND MY FAMILY. Your attempt at humor is at best, “pitiful”!! If ignorance is indeed “bliss”, you are truly “blissful”. I am CAROL D. WITCHER in the news clip and FLOYD HENRY is indeed my Boxer companion whom I rescued when he was 5 months old. I AM INDEED CANCER FREE AND PROUD TO TELL MY STORY ABOUT FLOYD HENRY TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO UNDERSTAND NEW METHODS OF MEDICAL RESEARCH MIGHT JUST ONE DAY SAVE YOUR LIFE OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE. So Ann for you or anyone who finds this medical news clip funny, you are just plain ignorant---but the good news is this---FLOYD HENRY AND I WILL CONTINUE TO BE GRATEFUL FOR OUR LIVES TOGETHER AND IF OUR STORY GETS JUST ONE PERSON TO THE DOCTORS FOR HELP, WE HAVE DONE OUR JOBS. Have a another healthy roll of choking laughter as you continue to be ignorant. God bless and may you never feel the anguish of a catastrophic illness and if you do, may God grant you the strength to go through successfully. Sincerely, Carol D. Witcher, breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2008 and cancer free in 2010 Floyd Henry would “sing for you” but he is busy brushing the garlic out of his mouth that came through your silly ignorant blog note. As a footnote to my diagnosis, I had been checked by mammograms and ultra sound------two times per year, each May and October for 23 years!! The discovery by Floyd Henry was BETWEEN those months from Oct 2007 to May in 2008! In response to your unasked question, “no, he does not sniff my remaining left breast---BECAUSE THERE IS NO CANCER THERE!!! May I suggest a “good bath might just remove the stench in your boobaloob and your vajaja areas!!

  5. I do wish small minded people could do a bit more research before addressing something of this importance and making fun of it. This study was done via Emory University and Georgia Tech. I think they have a pretty darn good reputation in medicine.

    I did some research and looked at much information about breast cancer and the breath studies and there are many taking place, not only to detect breast cancer but many other types of cancer and disease and not only at Emory, but across this nation.

    So if it makes you feel big to belittle something that could be such a great discovery, then go for it. We all need something to feed our egos from time to time. I am sure you thought you were quite funny, but I did not. I found it sad…very sad…that something of this importance was so ridiculed. I also found it very sad that others were so narrow minded that they too found it funny.

    When I came home from my mammograms my breasts felt as though they had been crushed within a moment of bursting. They would be bruised and sore for days, so no I don’t think “crushed” is too strong a word, but then for someone that has itty bitty boobies, they may not go through the same thing I go through. At my age it is unlikely that I will ever get to experience the “breathalyzer” as a part of my routine annual exam, but there is no doubt in my mind it will happen. I am betting that the whole idea in the video was to bring in the fact that if animals can smell it, then why can’t we detect it in a similar way.

    For the record, animals DO DETECT many things that we humans cannot and they save lives daily. Again, my research shows that much work is being done with animals in the detection of all sorts of diseases, including cancer. I would hate to think that I was so narrow minded that I could not believe this as a possibility. Already animals work with people in many areas to health, one of which is to detect seizures before they happen so that the person can be warned. I don’t suppose they are taught how to do a blood test, or use a stethoscope or a cat-scan for detection of these seizures. My guess is they use their nose. Wow, what a concept?

    As for kissing on the pup. Yeah! If my pup saved my life, I’d be kissing on him too…more than I already do. And by the way…never once has e-coli or any other dreaded thing passed from my pup to me…but then, I keep my doggies in a clean healthy environment. Their teeth are cleaned daily and they DON’T partake of the kitty litter. They also DO NOT smell in the places you mentioned. They are not rude to guests in that way either, so either they have better manners than yours or I don’t smell. Maybe that is why I know in my heart that if they “sniff” inappropriately that there might be something I need to address. If my doggie doesn’t like it. I’m getting it checked.

    It’s open minded people like Dr. Sheryl Gabram and Dr. Charlene Bayer and yes…Carol Witcher that help me to know that there is still much that can be done about finding better diagnostics and better treatment for the likes of breast cancer and I applaud them all!

    By the grace of God, I have not personally had to battle breast cancer and pray that I never do, but I have seen it in many friends and it is not a beast I wish to meet. I spent two years by the side of one very dear person in her battle with breast cancer. She won that battle and I am proud to have spent that time beside her. I admire anyone that has conquered it. I am saddened to find anyone that feels research that might save lives funny and pray they will rethink their position.

    If you are one of the people that found this video funny and ridiculous, why not treat yourself. Talk to your breast surgeon, or your oncology doctor about the studies and research that is being done. My guess is, that if you are not in podunkville with an uneducated physician, you’ll learn quite a lot.

    Oh…and I don’t blog. I happened upon this in some of my research and just couldn’t let it pass without a comment.

  6. Hi Carol,

    I'm so sorry you had cancer, as do I. I'm glad that you are healed and that you are taking comfort in your dogs.

    I wanted to clear up that I wasn't making fun of you - I was making fun of that poorly-written, poorly produced news story. They took what could be interesting research and dumbed it down for the masses. The researcher - the clip they showed of her - she never even explained what they were looking for in breath. She just kind of stuttered her way through her statement and that's what they chose to put in the air.

    Surely they could have done another take and had her explain it more clearly?

    It was one of those stories that are all too often on the evening news - and one of the reasons I no longer watch my own local news - it didn't focus on the serious of your disease and how the new breathalyzer test may have helped you and others - until a sentence at the end. It was a quick piece designed for promotions, "Dog discovers cancer, news at 11:00!" and not real journalism.

    I was pretty shocked to find somebody who calls himself a doctor doing the narration. You'd think he'd know better and make it a serious story rather than something very, very fluffy.

    When promising research comes out, and they choose to put it on the news, and when somebody participates in a clinical trial to help others as I suspect you did - they should take it seriously and not sensationalize it. I believe that can be done in a minute and a half.

    That is my opinion about that news story, and mine alone, and it's what I hoped I illustrated in my satirical post. I do know not everybody gets my edgy brand of humor and that's okay.

    Please, keep on participating in that trial and keep on using yourself to help others. I have done clinical trials too. Maybe I can someday write a serious piece about the selfless woman who give their time and energy to help other woman by doing these trials - which is also what that story should have been about, and wasn't.

    Good luck to you, I hope you stay cancer-free and enjoy a long and happy life with your famuly and your dogs.

  7. Well ... I thought your post was funny ... working with journalists and media on a daily basis I so often get so frustrated when they twist the 'hook' of a story!

    I don't think anybody from the medical profession should use the word "crushed", that is appalling. They should NEVER use any word which will deter women from being tested.

    Just pleased to hear Carol's cancer was detected and successfully treated.

    P x


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