Part 2: Conventional Therapies for Cancer Pet Treatment
What kinds of treatments are available for dogs with cancer?
The treatment options available to pets with cancer are very similar to those available to people who suffer from this disease. The most common approaches to treat cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. In addition to these conventional therapies, there are holistic and alternative treatment options for pets.
The outcome of every cancer treatment will depend greatly on the type of tumor being treated, the time of diagnosis, your pet’s health status, and other factors. Most of the treatment options available to pets with cancer will result in a partial or total remission—this means that the tumor size is reduced or that there is no detectable cancer in the body for certain period of time. However, it is important to remember that a patient in cancer remission is not necessarily cured from cancer, and that there is always the possibility of an eventual cancer return.
Treatment The Options for Pets with Cancer
Surgery. When cancer is detected early, the tumor is still small, and there is no metastasis (spreading of tumors around the body) surgery could be beneficial. Cancer surgery usually involves the removal of the tumor along with some of the surrounding tissue, to make a recurrence less likely. In cases where the cancer has spread only to surrounding lymph nodes, the removal of the tumor and all of the affected lymph nodes may result in remission. If the cancer has spread to other organs, surgery is unlikely to remove all of the cancer. But it may still provide relief and improve your pet’s quality of life.
Radiation therapy. If a cancer has not spread through the body, radiation therapy can be an effective treatment because many tumors in pets are sensitive to X-rays. The equipment needed to perform radiation therapy is not available on most veterinary clinics, therefore, this type of therapy will probably require some travel and additional expenses.
Chemotherapy. Not all pets with cancer are good candidates for chemotherapy. There are few types of cancer, other than transmissible venereal tumors (TVT), that respond well to this type of treatment. Until recently, only drugs developed to treat humans were used to treat pets with cancer, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved two drugs, one of them conditionally, to treat cancer in dogs:
• Palladia (toceranib phosphate). This drug was approved by the FDA for the treatment of mast cell tumors in dogs in 2009.
• Paccal Vet-CA1 (paclitaxel for injection). In 2014, the FDA conditionally approved this drug for the treatment of mammary carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma in dogs.
Immunotherapy. Many research institutions are now focusing on the development of new therapies that rely on signaling the patient’s immune system to kill or inhibit cancer cells. Although these therapies are still under development, they are very promising.
Combination therapy. The best outcomes for pet cancer often come from a combination of treatments, such as, surgery followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
What to expect during pet cancer treatment?
The possibility of adverse side effects is a major concern for many pet owners when seeking cancer therapy for their pet. The veterinary radiation oncology specialist, Dr. Juliana Cyman, Diplomate ACVR, from the Portland Veterinary Oncology Center, says that although there are some side effects associated with cancer treatment in pets, they are generally much less frequent and less severe than most people anticipate. Dr. Cyman explains that pets very rarely experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or inappetance when they undergo radiation therapy, and that the side effects usually resolve quickly. She also mentions that the side effects are severe in few patients, and are usually limited to the tissues in the irradiated treatment field.
What does it cost to treat a dog with cancer?
The cost of cancer treatment is very variable. It depends mostly on the type and length of the treatment. On average, pet cancer treatment can range from $700 to $14,000, but there are surgeries that can cost various thousands of dollars. Your veterinarian will help you choose the best treatment path for your pet.
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