When one Oregon woman rescued a cat from a local humane society, she never thought her own life would be saved.
Michelle Pierson says her feline Mia noticed a lump that ended up being breast cancer and that the early detection has given her a better shot. The 48-year-old, who’s still fighting the disease, and her husband Will adopted the kitty last year.
“My husband and I were lying in bed watching TV, when out of nowhere, Mia got up on my chest, sniffed my right breast and looked in my face,” Pierson told KGW, a Portland-based NBC-affiliated TV station. “She sniffed the spot again and looked at my face and I tried to shove her off. She came back up and just laid down on that right breast and looked at me like, ‘I’m trying to tell you something.’”
Pierson’s husband Will also recalls the incident. “I was there,” he told KGW. “I felt the lump and said, ‘Yeah, you should probably go in.’” After undergoing tests, her doctor called to tell her she had Stage 2 breast cancer.
“Because we caught this early, my prognosis is much better,” Pierson told the news outlet. She acknowledged she may come off as sounding like a crazy cat lady to some. “People kind of look at me like, ‘I’ve never heard of that, you’re crazy,’” Pierson told KGW.
But the pawsome discovery is backed up by science.
Dogs have been able to be trained to tell the difference between patients with breast and lung cancer and control subjects when sniffing their breath in a 2006 study. And a 2015 study from the University of Iowa found that pigeons were able to be trained to tell the difference between benign and malignant breast tissue in mammogram slides.
Whether or not Mia was really responding to cancer in Pierson’s body or her behavior was just a coincidence, the couple credits their cat with alerting them to the lump and going for testing.
“We’ve always loved the cat,” Will told KGW. “But now the cat gets anything it wants, whenever it wants, as much as it wants.”