‘My dog spotted I had breast cancer’

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A loving dog spotted that his Portsmouth owner had breast cancer.

Retired science teacher Karin Gibson, 62, came back from holiday and was bemused when black labrador Paddy began climbing on her and smelling her breath as she sat on the sofa.

The ‘amazing’ dog then kept nudging and ‘pawing’ at her right breast until it began to hurt, and so she went to see her family doctor.

Mrs Gibson, who lives in Hilsea, was directed to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham for further tests which confirmed she had developed cancer.

She now faces an operation but has been told she has a 99 per cent chance of receiving the all-clear because of such early diagnosis and that her beloved pet has ‘saved her life’.

Mrs Gibson had just returned home from a 10-week boat trip to the Douro River in Portugal with her 60 year old husband, Tim, when her dog’s behaviour ‘completely changed’.

Paddy, a five-year-old rescue dog who weighs 40kg, ‘wouldn’t leave her alone’.

The mother-of-four said: “I came back from holiday in August and from then, Paddy was constantly up on top of me, smelling my breath.

“His behaviour when we came back from Portugal changed so radically it made me go to my local GP surgery. He was nudging and pawing at my right breast.

“Paddy has always been a cuddly dog but after our holiday he was like a super glue dog - he wouldn’t leave me alone.

“If I sat down on the sofa he would jump up and smell my breath and look into my eyes - he would do it every time I sat down.

“He weighs 40kg - he’s a big dog and kept nudging me and pawing at my right breast and then it obviously started to hurt after a while.

“At first I assumed he was just after some attention as we were away for ten days.

“But this continued for three weeks and my breast began to hurt as a result.

“I thought it was inflamed or that I had mastitis as I didn’t feel any bumps or lumps to link it to breast cancer.”

Mrs Gibson added: “This made me go to the doctor to have some tests.

“I had a mammogram and the results showed they had found a small, early sign of breast cancer.

“I was gobsmacked but felt incredibly lucky and grateful that Paddy did what he did.

“I can’t believe just how amazing this dog is. He is a hero, a super dog.

“We rescued him from a Many Tears dogs home in south Wales; so we rescued him and now he’s rescued me.”

Mrs Gibson and her husband, a marine pilot, have two other dogs - a seven-year-old Labrador called Jack and an English Setter, Barney.

She said: “Paddy was the only dog of the three that acted differently.

“The doctor at Queen Alexandra hospital in Cosham said I was amazingly lucky because we managed to get it diagnosed incredibly early.

“He asked ‘why did you go to the doctor, what made you go?’

“I told him it was because of Paddy and he said I have a 99 per cent chance of receiving the all-clear and making a full recovery because it was spotted so early. He said my dog could have saved my life.”

Mrs Gibson was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma and will be undergoing an excision lumpectomy operation next week.

She then has to wait two weeks before she gets the all-clear with regards to the boundaries of the cancer.

Dr Kat Arney, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said Paddy would have been sniffing her breast because cancers radiate molecules.

She said: “It is amazing.

“In terms of the actual science, we know that many cancers produce molecules that are smelly, called volatile molecules.

“We can’t necessarily smell them ourselves, but obviously dogs’ noses are very sensitive.

“When we do hear these stories, it’s with people’s pets, or animals they’re close with, recognising that something is different.

“There are some very interesting research studies going on with highly trained animals.

“If we can work out what molecules they are smelling, that can actually be a way to make electronic noses to detect cancer in many more people.

“So, rather than having your own personal sniffer dog, perhaps we could have a little sniffer dog’s nose in a box.”