San Antonio fire station uses cancer-sniffing dogs to catch disease beforehand

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Dogs have long been used to sniff out drugs and bugs and even bombs! But can these furry friends also identify the smell of cancer?

A special program in San Antonio has been designed to help protect some of our most vulnerable heroes, firefighters.

"Everything a firefighter does is a calculated risk," San Antonio firefighter Joe Arrington said.

And firefighters may be at risk for cancer since those who work the Hazmat team and other dangerous assignments are exposed to hazardous chemicals every single day..

A joint effort between the San Antonio Fire Department and the Firefighter's Association has launched a program to find out using these special test kit masks.

"I found out about this program last summer. I was up in Illinois doing a firefighting study," Safety Division Executive Officer Jennifer Chadwick said. "We've lost several of our firefighters to cancer. We have many other firefighters that are currently battling the disease."

"If I have no signs or symptoms, you're not always going to present early that you have signs or symptoms," Arrington said.

The way the test works is firefighters breathe into a mask for 10 minutes before each kit gets shipped off to Canada to be sniffed by special dogs.

"Obviously, it's a screening tool," Chadwick said. "It's not a diagnostic test. What these dogs are smelling for are the waste products from the cancer cells. They're hyper-metabolic."

"Just to know, it's a comforting feeling," Arrington said.

And these dedicated pooches are showing everyone why dogs really are man's best friend!