Alleviating Stress, Anxiety & Improving Quality of Life
Studies have demonstrated that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) plays a beneficial role in:
- Improving rest, nourishment, exercise, socialization, lowering anxiety, overcoming problems, motivation and self-esteem for pediatric cancer patients
- Alleviating psychological distress in children and their parents, facilitating their coping and with the therapeutic process, and promoting their well-being throughout hospitalization
In one study, AAT during counseling for breast cancer was successful in:
- Increasing calm and feelings of anticipation toward participation in counseling
- Increasing disclosure of information and engagement with therapy
- Alleviating feelings of anxiety and distress
- Increasing communication with health professionals
- Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy that had a weekly hour-long session of therapy with a dog rated their symptoms of depression and anxiety half as severe as those who did not.
Detection of Cancer
In addition to providing cancer patients and their families with support, a growing body of research is examining the potential for dogs to detect cancers in humans.
One study found that canine olfactory detection of colorectal cancer is accurate and even higher in accuracy for early-stage cancers.
In patients with colorectal cancer, the sensitivity of canine scent detection of breath samples compared with conventional diagnosis by colonoscopy was .91 and the specificity was .99. The sensitivity of canine scent detection of watery stool samples was .97 and the specificity was .99.
This study concluded that a specific cancer scent does exist and that cancer-specific chemical compounds may be circulating through the body. These odor materials may become effective tools in CRC screening.
For more information about cancer:
Gagnon, Johanne, et al. “Implementing a hospital-based animal therapy program for children with cancer: a descriptive study.” Canadian Oncology Nursing Journal/Revue canadienne de soins infirmiers en oncologie 14.4 (2004): 217-222.