General Question

chicadelplaya's avatar

How should I go about this?

Asked by chicadelplaya (2213points) April 26th, 2009

This may sound strange to many of you, but I have this strange ability to smell advanced cancer in some people. I worked in an acute care hospital for 6 years and in that time noticed that some patients had a VERY DISTINCTIVE foul smell about them. Turns out they all had cancer of some type. I know I’m not crazy because there were a few other therapists who had experienced this as well. So not too long ago I noticed this distinctive smell again while visiting a friend of mine who is nearly 57 y/o. Now, I am not a doctor, however this is a smell you would never forget. I didn’t say anything to my friend directly, but did ask him when the last time he had any blood work done, which he sort of fluffed me on. Do I come right out and say something? I don’t really want to freak him out but I strongly feel this needs to be addressed asap. How should I go about this? I need some advice. Thanks.

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14 Answers

Judi's avatar

What a tough situation. It really depends on your relationship with the guy. Can you just say you have a premonition that he really really needs to see a doctor right away? If he doesn’t listen, you have no choice but to tell him (I wouldn’t use the word advanced when you tell him though.) I would just say that in all the years that you have been a therapist you have rarely been wrong and that you care enough for him to insist he at least see a doctor, and that you hope you’re wrong. I’ve heard of dogs that could do this but never people. What a wonderful but burdensom gift.

tinyfaery's avatar

No reason at all to bring the how into the situation, unless of course he is the type of person to be open to such an idea.

Tell him that you have just been worrying about him, and you don’t know why, but it would mean a lot to you if he were to get a blood test. Tell him it’s for you. That might do it.

BookReader's avatar

…i suspect the reason you may be sharing this story is because you already have a strong clue/indication that your friend is not going to bite into your offering…

…not everyone is ready to believe in what they can’t see…in my opinion they should not have to…

…for your information, just yesterday there was a yahoo or msn news headline which read something like “Can this canine smell cancer?” consequently, science may be agreeing with you… good luck in whatever you decide…

flameboi's avatar

tell her, by the way, i have serious suspicions myself, I’m sure i could use your amazing ability :D

casheroo's avatar

I’d tell them that they are at an age where they should be tested, routine testing…like a colonoscopy. If someone told me they had an ability like that, I might brush it off…but I’d be too suspicious to not test haha

hearkat's avatar

I agree that you want to encourage your friend to get a physical, and that you might be better off keeping your reason vague… like @Judi‘s suggestion of saying a “premonition” or just a “feeling” that he should see a Doctor sooner than later.

Just to be sure… did you smell it coming from him specifically? Or is there a chance that there had been someone else at the house recently and the smell lingered? Or does he have a pet that could have the illness? I just think that before you go out on a limb based on a single visit, you may want to confirm your experience with another visit.

Other things that the medical detective in me is curious about… Were the patients you noticed the smell with already diagnosed and receiving treatment? If so… were they being treated with any of the same medications that could be cause of the odor? (or since they were in a facility, there may have been medications for other conditions that they had in common, in which case I’d wonder if that substance may have contributed to the cancer, or somehow interacted with the cancerous cells to give off the odor).

Good luck to you, and your friend!

oratio's avatar

Just tell it straight, but agree that it might be nothing, but you think testing would be good to prove you wrong.

I think that if this is true, that you can do this, then you can really help humanity. It would be helpful to know about what actually causes these odors and what it is. Dogs can’t speak as you can. I would call MIT and here if they would like to research this. They have developed electronic noses that identify smells.

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

Cool gift! Definetly encourage this person to see a doctor and check it out. Better safe than sorry.
is it me, or does this question remind you of the cake question?

Jeruba's avatar

Would a routine physical test for the presence of cancer markers in an asymptomatic patient?

hearkat's avatar

@Jeruba: As far as I know, unless the patient were to mention a strong family history or significant contributing factors (i.e. a heavy smoker), the physician isn’t likely to order testing for cancer markers.

skfinkel's avatar

When you smell this, you say it is advanced cancer? The kind the can’t be cured? if it’s too late, maybe you should spare him. If you can help people catch it early, then let him know, and drive him to the hospital yourself! Dogs can smell this, and I don’t doubt that you can too.

Likeradar's avatar

Does the friend in question know you have this ability?

chicadelplaya's avatar

Hi Everybody and thank you for your responses.
I saw my friend today and made him promise he would go in for the blood tests his doctor already routinely ordered weeks ago on Tuesday. So let’s hope my nose is wrong. :/ Thanks @judi and @tinyfaery
@hearkat- When I have experienced this smell, it has always been less than 2 feet away from the person. In the hospital setting, it was usually in the oncology unit, but not always. Sometimes we would be seeing a patient for a whole other reason and I would still smell it. After the treatment (physical therapy) I would then go back into the patient’s chart and look through their medical history and it would be there. So either they were currently being treated for cancer or had already been treated (typically). I am not sure what the cause of it is, other than the body rotting so to speak.
@jeruba- Hopefully a blood test would show, if there was something as significant as this, through elevated white blood cell count or the like.
@likeradar- I do believe I have told him about this before as we have been good friends for about 9 years.

knitfroggy's avatar

@chicadelplaya I’m so fascinated to hear that someone else has this ability. My mother is an RN and can smell cancer on people. She doesn’t like it. She also swears she has healing hands and will rub her hands together and lay them on you if you are hurting somewhere. Weather it really works or is just the suggestion that takes your pain away, I don’t know, but it seems to work.

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