Sniffing out cancer

When Cindy Roberts lost her mother to lung cancer only six days after her diagnosis, she decided that no one should have such a short time to say their goodbyes. In her time of grief, Roberts, owner of Use Your Nose Dog Training in Vestavia Hills, decided to train dogs to use scent detection to find cancers.

She traveled to California, where she saw trainers do just this, and returned home with the protocol and certification for detection training and started working to put the program together. 

Cindy Roberts with Opie.

“I need to partner with a researcher to obtain sufficient cancer samples to train the dogs,” Roberts said. “We will get blood and urine samples from cancer patients and let the dogs use their sense of smell for detection.” 

She said dogs have a fantastic olfactory network and they can find cancer at the earliest stage before it starts to grow. Roberts hopes this will become a standard practice of testing in the future. 

“My goal is that we can figure out what dogs are detecting in urine, and then research can develop a test for women to have done when they go for physical. A lab test would determine if they need more testing, or if they are good for another year.” 

Although she is hoping for a lung cancer study in honor of her mother, the first study will be for ovarian cancer. Roberts said she has a potential partner in Birmingham and are in the budgeting phase to see how much they need to start fundraising. Roberts has already created a Gofundme page with a goal of raising $150,000. 

“This blows me away,” she said. “All of this is clicking into place. Potentially, we will be able to start saving lives with this study. Even if one person’s cancer is detected early, and they have a better outcome, all the blood, sweat and tears will be worth it.”

Roberts hopes one day the dog detection will become a leading way to find cancers.    

“Once we have enough science available, hopefully the FDA will open their eyes, and this will be accepted practice.”For more information, visit or to donate visit


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