An ex-fellow recognizes his dog for saving her life after the dog has smelled the cancer three times.
Stephanie Herfel, 52, had a severe discomfort in the abdomen, which her doctor dismissed as a cyst.
Sent home with painkillers, Mrs. Herfel made an appointment to see a gynecologist when her Siberian Husky Sierra sniffed her lower abdomen before escaping and cowering in the closet.
On 11 November 2013, Mrs. Herfel was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the third phase.
After undergoing a complete hysterectomy, chemotherapy and the removal of the spleen, Ms Herfel thought she was disease-free until the Sierra sniffed her again in 2015 and 2016 – later tests revealed her cancer was come back both times.
Now, free of the disease, Mrs. Herfel believes she would not be here if it were not for Sierra. "I owe my life to that dog," he said. "It was really a godsend for me."
Stephanie Herfel (pictured left with her dog Sierra in September of last year) attributes her Siberian Husky to save her life after the dog has smelled the cancer three times. In the photo in February 2016, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer for the first time on 11 November 2013
Mrs. Herfel (pictured with her husband Jim Herfel at a monthly hospital appointment in March 2017) was sent home with painkillers when she went to her doctor with abdominal pain. She was diagnosed with cancer only when Sierra sniffed her belly and then crawled into a ball
Ovarian cancer affects about 22,200 new women each year in the United States, with one out of 78 women developing the disease at some point in their lives, according to the American Cancer Society.
About 70 percent of women with ovarian cancer see their disease return, which becomes more likely the more advanced it is when diagnosed, says the Alliance for Ovarian Cancer Research.
In the United Kingdom, ovarian cancer affects around 7,200 new women each year. The chance to survive more than a decade after diagnosis is 35% in England and Wales.
Sierra first smelled Mrs. Herfel's abdomen shortly after moving to Wisconsin from California. He adopted the animal from his son in 2011, when he left for the service abroad while he was serving in aeronautics.
HOW DOES THE DOGS "SNIFF OUT" CANCEL WORK?
Dogs have an extremely sensitive sense of smell and can collect "volatile organic compounds", which are released from the early stages of many tumors, including ovari, pulmonary and colorectal.
Scientific studies have shown that dogs can separate blood and tissue samples donated by patients with ovarian cancer and healthy people by collecting on small amounts of VOC.
Studies have also shown that dogs can smell prostate cancer in a man's urine, as well as the forms of the breast and lungs of the disease from compounds in a patient's breath.
If a dog finds it on his owner, he can try to alert him by paying them more attention, sniffing them or "comforting them" by gently licking their hands or feet, or lying next to them for no reason.
If a person notices that his dog regularly acts differently around them, it may be worthwhile to look for other cancer symptoms such as pain, fatigue and weight loss.
The experts said that specially trained dogs could especially help women with ovarian cancer, who have no screening programs and are usually diagnosed only when advanced.
"Scared", Mrs. Herfel, who served in the US Marine Corps from 1984 to 1988, contacted her gynecologist. The doctor then prescribed blood tests and an ultrasound.
After being diagnosed, Ms. Herfel thought she had undergone her final chemotherapy session in April 2014.
But in 2015 and 2016, Sierra correctly identified that the cancer had returned, with subsequent tests showing that the disease had spread to Mrs. Herfel's liver and pelvis.
His primary cancer doctor, David Kushner, told Mrs. Herfel that this was no accident, and that some dog breeds were able to detect cancer with a 98% accuracy.
Sierra also acted the same way when Ms. Herfel, who was fighting against ovarian cancer, visited, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Mrs. Herfel, who married her husband Jim last year after meeting online, is now cancer free.
But she still takes a daily dose of chemotherapy tablets as part of a clinical trial to reduce the risk she may return.
Whenever she comes home from a check-up at the Coal Cancer Center at the University of Wisconsin, Mrs. Herfel is forced to change clothes because of Sierra who becomes anxious about the smell of cancer .
While she is worried that her illness may still return, Mrs. Herfel has already challenged the five-year survival rate and remains positive about new treatments being continually developed.
Ms. Herfel, who is now retired, has recently joined the Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance board of directors and hopes to write a book about Sierra "just to give credit to animals that are quite intelligent".
Mrs. Herfel called Sierra a "godsend" after she correctly identified when her cancer had returned in 2015 and again in 2016. This despite having undergone a hysterectomy, a chemotherapy and the removal of the spleen. The couple is depicted on May 4th of last year
Although now disease-free, Mrs. Herfel takes chemo tablets every day to prevent her cancer from returning. When he returned the second and third time, he had reached the liver and the pelvis. It remains positive new treatments will be developed. It is depicted on August 8th 2015
The former grant writer is now retired and on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance. He hopes to write a book about Sierra to show that animals are "smart enough". Mrs. Herfel, originally from California, is depicted with the pet on May 23, 2015
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF OVARIAN CANCER?
The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognize, especially at the beginning.
They are often the same as the symptoms of less severe conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).
The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
- Feel constantly inflated
- A swollen belly
- Discomfort in the belly or in the pelvic area
- Feel full quickly when eating, or loss of appetite
- You need to pee more often or more urgently than normal
Other symptoms can include:
- Pindigestion indistinguishable or nausea
- Pain during sex
- A change in your intestinal habits
- Vaginal bleeding – especially bleeding after menopause
- Feeling tired all the time
- Unintentional weight loss
When to see your doctor
See your doctor if:
- You've felt bloated almost every day for the last three weeks
- You have other symptoms of ovarian cancer that will not go away – especially if you are over the age of 50 or if you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer because you may be at higher risk
It is unlikely that you have cancer, but it is better to check. Your GP can do simple tests.
Source: NHS choices