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Pigeons Can Detect Cancer

Update Date: Nov 30, 2015 05:30 PM EST

Animals like dogs and fruit flies have been known to be able to detect cancer in humans for some time now, but scientists were more than surprised when they found that even pigeons can be trained to find the disease, although with just a bit of technological and human help as well.

Just like doctors can look at x-rays and other medical imaging and utilize their medical training to identify diseases like cancer, pigeons can do the same when given some training, according to The New York Times.

Because pigeons have incredibly good eyesight, they can be trained to recognize tumors and other potential cancerous masses when they are shown mammograms or biopsies.

The study was done by researchers at the University of Iowa with 16 different bird species that had also participated in other scientific studies. The birds would be shown an image and given food when they properly identified a cancerous mass. The study appeared in the medical journal PLOS One.

The birds were placed inside a small box with a screen that could detect touch and displayed images of human tissue. The birds were supposed to tap a blue box if the mass was benign, and a yellow box when the mass was cancerous.

The researchers not only presented the birds with the images, but presented the images in a variety of ways, to make it even more difficult to detect the cancer. For example, some images were in color, some were black and white, some were in color, and the images were also magnified to various degrees.

The birds were even able detect calcifications, masses that are related to cancer, with 85 percent accuracy after two weeks, even though finding calcifications is difficult even for a human doctor.

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