Treatment Options for Pets with Cancer
We are here to offer hope. As medical advances and technology continue to redefine what is possible, we hope you find it reassuring to know that, in many cases, cancer is a treatable disease – and in an increasing number of cases, it is potentially even curable.
Does that mean that every pet’s cancer can be cured? Of course not. Factors such as tumor type, size and location combine with variables like early detection and treatment options to dictate what a realistic prognosis looks like for each individual patient. And every patient is different.
But what makes us so excited is that we now have the technology and clinical ability to explore whether a curative option is viable for each patient before recommending a treatment course. Sometimes that means surgery. Sometimes that means radiation therapy. Sometimes that means a treatment designed to slow the spread of cancer and enhance a pet’s quality of life. The ultimate goal will always be the complete removal of cancer from the patient. If that is not possible, we will continue to pursue the safest, most effective and least disruptive treatment available.
If your pet is diagnosed with cancer, the choices can seem overwhelming. We understand. Let us help guide you through the various treatment options so you can determine what is right for your pet and your family. Depending on the specific type of cancer a pet has, treatment may include the following, either alone or in combination:
The most common cancer treatments
Surgery is often the first line of treatment when a localized cancer can be removed completely. The best-case scenario will always involve having the patient in one room and the tumor in another. In situations where the prospect of total removal is uncertain, however, the decision becomes more difficult. A surgery that fails to achieve complete removal of the cancer may eliminate a potentially curative option like SRS (see below) from further consideration. Conversely, SRS may be utilized to shrink and encapsulate a tumor, thereby optimizing chances for a successful surgery later on.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS)
A leading treatment option in human cancer care, SRS is now available for pets. The advanced form of radiation therapy is highly effective in treating cancer and is usually delivered with the intent to cure, as opposed to merely easing symptoms. Utilizing sub-millimeter precision that is unprecedented in veterinary medicine, SRS directly targets the tumor while mostly sparing the surrounding healthy tissue. It can even be used to treat some cancers previously considered “untreatable” in sensitive areas of the body such as the brain, spine or lungs. SRS is a noninvasive, nonsurgical procedure that eliminates most side effects and requires only 1-3 treatments, an 80-95% reduction in both treatment sessions and anesthetic events compared to conventional radiation therapy.
- Conventional radiation therapy
Radiation therapy uses targeted radiation to shrink or destroy cancers that cannot be safely or completely removed by surgery alone. It can also be utilized in conjunction with, or in place of, chemotherapy, or delivered following surgery if the initial procedure is unable to completely remove the cancer. Conventional RT is typically administered in 15-21 treatment sessions over 3-7 weeks.
Powerful drugs are used to destroy or damage cancer cells, particularly blood-cell cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia, and cancers that have spread (metastasized) or are likely to. It may be given orally (pills), intravenously, or directly into a tumor. Fortunately, dogs and cats generally tolerate chemotherapy much better than human patients.
- Palliative Care
Sometimes pet owners opt for no treatment of the cancer, particularly if a cure is not possible. In this case, palliative care—which includes pain management—can be used to increase a pet’s comfort and quality of life. Typically delivered in weekly treatments over 3-6 weeks, the goal is to relieve symptoms such as pain, bleeding and decreased mobility.
Other treatments offered at various PetCure Oncology locations
A biological therapy that involves the use of antibodies to boost the body’s natural defenses by either stimulating the immune system to fight the cancer cells or by counteracting signals produced by cancer cells that suppress the immune system.
The use of cold temperatures to kill cells. It is best suited for small, superficial tumors and is commonly used on areas such as the skin, eyelids, oral cavity, and peri-anal region.
- Radioactive Iodine I-131
Hyperthyroidism is one of the most common endocrine disorders diagnosed in cats. It can be treated surgically, medically or with radioactive iodine therapy (I-131). Most cats (90-95%) will have a benign, functional thyroid adenoma (tumor) that produces excessive thyroid hormone but has no risk of metastasis. A very small percentage of cats will have a thyroid carcinoma. Treatment with I-131 is the only option to treat the dysfunctional thyroid tissue with minimal impact on normal tissue.
To explore which treatment option is right for your pet, get in contact with the PetCure Oncology site near you.