Madison woman’s dog detects her cancer three times


MADISON, Wis. (WTVO/CNN) — A husky dog named Sierra is going viral after being credited for saving the life of her owner by sniffing out her ovarian cancer three times.

52-year-old Stephanie Herfel inherited Sierra from her son in 2011, after he left to join the Air Force.

In 2013, shortly after moving from California to Madison, Herfel went to the emergency room for abdominal pain and doctors told her they found what was likely a benign ovarian cyst.

But Sierra thought different, Herfel says.

“She put her nose on my lower belly and was sniffing me so intently I thought I had spilled food on my shirt,’’ she said.

The dog would then run and hide and curl into a ball in the back of a closet, as if she was afraid, according to UW Health.

It was that reaction that convinced Herfel to get a second opinion.

“I would not be here today if she didn’t react like that,’’ Herfel says. “That’s why I made the appointment.”

Herfel was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer and had her spleen removed, along with a hysterectomy and chemotherapy.

She said she was doing well until 2015, when Sierra began sniffing and acting frightened again. The same thing happened in 2016. Each time scans confirmed the cancer had returned.

“Three times is amazing,’’ she says. “It just triples the amazement.”

Doctors say dogs have 220 million receptors in their noses, compared to 5 million for humans.

Herfel says her current regimen of treatment is keeping her cancer from progressing, while Sierra is making the rounds on television, thanks to her cancer-detection ability.

“Sierra is so bonded to me,’’ Herfel says. “When I’m sad, she’ll lick my tears off, and she always places herself between me and the doorway, to protect me.”


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