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Smelling Cancer?

Nurses   (56,993 Views 63 Comments)
by MikeyJ MikeyJ (New Member) New Member

MikeyJ specializes in Peds, PICU, Home health, Dialysis.

9,207 Visitors; 1,124 Posts

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One of my nursing instructors told our class that she has acquired a smell for cancer, and when she walks in a room she can tell immediately if a patient has cancer. :confused:

Do nurses typically "acquire" these intuitive smells after many years of nursing??

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2,282 Visitors; 130 Posts

dogs can smell it, so it could be true, but I doubt most humans have a sensitive enough sense of smell, one never knows though

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nursenpnk specializes in MSICU starting PICU.

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no you can not smell cancer, dogs can so i have heard, but you will learn different smells like c diff gi bleed ect but cancer hmmmm never heard that one before

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MS._Jen_RN is a ASN, RN and specializes in Orthosurgery, Rehab, Homecare.

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Not sure about cancer, I'd tend to agree with the previous poster about that, but other smells are rather distinct and are, after some time to "learn them" easily identifiable to an experienced nose. Some things include antibiotic pee, C-diff poop, gangrene, pseudamonous (sp?), DKA breath.

I'm sure someone could tell us others. Those are just the ones I'm "familiar" with. ~Jen

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MS._Jen_RN is a ASN, RN and specializes in Orthosurgery, Rehab, Homecare.

4,441 Visitors; 348 Posts

Forgot about GI bleed (how could I forget!) Yuk!

very distinct to be sure.

~Jen

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allantiques4me specializes in Brain injury,vent,peds ,geriatrics,home.

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The more experience you have you might be able to distinct the odors from different afflictions.

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Anjann specializes in M/S/Ortho/Bari/ED.

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It's absolutely true! When I was in clinicals I discovered this ability to "smell" cancer, as well as sense it's presence in the body when I shook a patient's hand, but kept it to myself for fear that people would think I was crazy. But one day I did mention it to a clinical instructor, and she told me that she too had this ability.

It is a very specific smell and you will know it when you run across it. I myself can sense it better than I smell it, and to me it is almost a sweet, pungent smell. I have also "seen" cancer in two patient before it was diagnosed by the doctor. Alot of times it's not really rocket science because they look so bad, but with these two people, it was not the expected diagnosis.

It's just an instinct, I guess.

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1,019 Visitors; 20 Posts

I know that smell, I thought it was to either DKA or from ERF, both patients were terminal though.

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MelodyRNurse has 3 years experience and specializes in ED, Rehab, LTC.

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I thought I smelled this too, but I thought it was caused by medications because I have also been around patients with Ca that did not have the smell?

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Bluehair has 30 years experience and specializes in Critical Care.

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Yup, I can smell some cancers (not all, so not as good as the dogs! lol!).

When I first started working as a nurse's aid prior to nursing school, there was an older night nurse who could smell it every single time. She would have the diagnosis down before the doc's had done the tests to diagnosis it. Not sure of her exact 'batting average', but I'm certain it was darn high. I have had a few similar experiences where I could smell it, blew it off as being wrong/silly, and the patient would be diagnosed some months later.

Stranger than fiction...

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Bluehair has 30 years experience and specializes in Critical Care.

6,025 Visitors; 436 Posts

As an aside, my husband can't smell dinner cooking half the time when I think the whole house smells like roast. Some people smell different scents better than others, so I suppose this could be the case here too.

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CametoitlateTexan specializes in Cardiac.

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I have a friend who was an OT in a nursing home. She had a dog that could smell "death." The director of the facility would have her bring the dog into the facility and visit the clients. Whenever the dog refused to be around a client, the director would know who was going to die soon. She said it worked every time.

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