Woman diagnosed with cancer – after her dog won't stop pawing at her breast
Mrs Rawlinson discovered a lump after her dog kept nuzzling her breastShe has received chemotherapy and will have the tumour removed soon
12:02 GMT, 26 July 2012
A woman has hailed her pet dog as a 'guardian angel' after it sniffed out a cancerous lump growing in her breast.
Sharon Rawlinson only went to see her doctor because her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Penny, had been pestering her for months, sniffing and nuzzling the area where the aggressive tumour was growing.
The 43-year-old was sent to hospital for checks by her GP – where a scan picked up the fact she had breast cancer.
She began a course of chemotherapy, and will have the tumour removed in an operation on Monday.
Mrs Sharon Rawlinson said her dog pestered her for weeks before she went to the doctor
Mrs Rawlinson, of Newark, Nottinghamshire, said: 'Penny was pawing me for weeks.
'She would gently paw me as if she was trying to get something out of my left breast, but I ignored it.
'When she stood on me in the middle of the night and wouldn't get off, the pain was like a thousand bee stings and the next day I felt bruised.
'It was only when I checked the next morning that I noticed a lump but again I ignored it as I thought it was an injury.'
Mrs Rawlinson, whose mother died from breast cancer nine years ago, plucked up the courage to have it checked in January. She was diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer and started chemotherapy.
After she started treatment, Mrs Rawlinson said 18-month-old Penny never bothered her owner in the same way again.
The mother-of-two, a school midday supervisor, said: 'Dogs are not just a man's best friend, they're a girl's best friend too. Who needs diamonds
'She's my guardian angel. We bonded straight away when she was a puppy but this is just amazing.
'I feel she was sent here just for me and she never leaves my side. If it hadn't been for Penny's persistence, I wouldn't have gone for a check-up.
'But that's wrong, and I would encourage anyone who thought there was something amiss to immediately see their doctor.'
Mrs Rawlinson is being treated at the Nottingham Breast Institute.
She added: 'The next few months will be an emotional rollercoaster, but with the love and support of my family and friends I'll get through it.'
Mrs Sharon Rawlinson said her dog was her guardian angel. Dogs are known to have an extremely sensitive sense of smell
Her husband, Brian, 45, who works for Newark and Sherwood District Council, described his wife as “an inspiration”.
He said: 'She has such a positive attitude and just gets on with things. Everybody loves her.
'It's lovely to see the bond that she has with Penny and, although we are going through an awful time, we know it could have been so much worse had the lump not been discovered.'
Researchers in Germany last year found that specially-trained dogs could detect a tumour in 71 percent of patients.
It is thought that tumours produce chemicals, including low concentrations of alkanes and aromatic compounds, which dogs – whose sense of smell is 100,000 times better than that of humans – can detect.
However, there is little evidence of cases of untrained domestic dogs sniffing out cancers in their owners.
Dr Jacqueline Boyd, course leader for animal biology at Nottingham Trent University, said: 'They are far more attuned to us than any other species.
'There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to say dogs have detected cancers and they are very responsive to things. It doesn't surprise me this dog detected its owner's cancer. It's a lovely story and reinforces the overall value of animals and their companionship.'