Pet Family FAQ
What is stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS)? How does it work?
Stereotactic radiosurgery, also commonly referred to as SRS, is a new way to deliver advanced radiation therapy with increased effectiveness and efficiency. SRS is a noninvasive, nonsurgical procedure that has been proven effective in human medicine and is now emerging in veterinary medicine through PetCure Oncology’s growing national network of cancer care centers. With unprecedented precision – and delivered with the intent to cure – SRS offers a host of benefits that make it a powerful option for pets determined to be appropriate candidates.
How can SRS be completed in just 1-3 sessions when traditional radiation therapy takes 15-21 sessions?
Because SRS is so much more precise than traditional radiation therapy, a higher dose of radiation can be delivered to a target in a single treatment. With traditional radiation therapy, the dose must be “fractionated,” or divided into many more treatment sessions, in order to minimize the radiation exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.
Then how does SRS result in fewer side effects?
The same submillimeter precision that allows for increased damage to tumorous tissue also helps to spare the healthy tissue that surrounds a tumor. As a result, this method of radiation therapy can minimize or avoid the complications and side effects often associated with traditional radiation therapy or chemotherapy. While every pet will react differently, most patients experience little more than fur discoloration over the treatment site.
How can SRS “treat the untreatable?”
SRS can be used to treat any tumor or localized cancer. In many cases, this includes tumors that were previously considered “untreatable” through surgery or traditional radiation therapy. Tumors in the brain or on the spine, for example, are historically difficult to treat due to their delicate locations within the body. The submillimeter precision of SRS, however, allows for the tumor to be precisely targeted with minimal, if any, damage to the surrounding healthy areas.
What should I expect when referred to a PetCure Oncology center?
While the process at each site may vary slightly, all visits to a PetCure Oncology location will start with an initial consult that includes a general check-up and, if necessary, diagnostic testing to confirm the type, size, location and stage of the cancer. At that point, a veterinary specialist or licensed radiation therapist will meet with you to review and recommend treatment options, answer your questions, and help you make an informed decision. Our goal is to support you in finding the best treatment option for your pet, and it is important that you have the opportunity for a face-to-face conversation with a medical expert to ensure that all of your questions are answered comprehensively and compassionately.
Once a course of treatment is selected, you will be able to schedule your pet’s first appointment right away.
What if SRS is not the right treatment for my pet?
Our goal is to work with you and your veterinarian to make sure your pet receives the best possible care – regardless of what that treatment may be. At each of our locations, PetCure Oncology has partnered with a local specialty practice or hospital. Together, we are able to provide comprehensive cancer care that gives your pet access to skilled and experienced specialists for any treatment plan. SRS is merely one choice among cancer treatment options. Our commitment is to present you with all of those options and help guide you through the process of selecting what is best for your pet and your family.
How long does SRS take?
During your initial consult, treatment planning will take 1-2 hours in order to prepare for the treatment itself.
The treatment sessions last 15-20 minutes on average, but the duration of a treatment can vary depending on tumor size, location and number of tumors. For difficult cases, a treatment session may take up to an hour. The consulting doctor will let you know in advance how long to expect your pet’s treatment to take.
What kind of pets can receive radiation therapy? Is my dog too big?
PetCure Oncology’s state-of-the-art machinery is equipped to handle any pet that weighs 400 pounds or less. While we primarily treat dogs and cats, any animal weighing less than 400 pounds can be considered for treatment at a PetCure Oncology center.
If my pet needs more than one treatment session, and I am traveling from out of town, can the sessions be provided on consecutive days so I only have to make one trip?
Yes. With significantly reduced toxicity to healthy tissue, the pet does not require the recovery time between treatments that are often necessary with traditional radiation therapy. This makes it easier to cluster treatment sessions closer together, adding a level of convenience for pet owners that have to balance their busy lives around their pet’s treatment schedule. We can also help you find nearby pet-friendly hotels, restaurants and any other services you need while your pet is undergoing treatment.
What kind of recovery should I expect following treatment?
Since SRS is a noninvasive procedure that minimizes radiation exposure to healthy tissue, the recovery process is generally very easy. Pets can return home with their families immediately following treatment and owners typically report normal, energetic behavior at that point. Most pet owners are thrilled when their pets suddenly begin acting like their old, pre-cancer selves.
The effects of SRS on the tumor itself occur more gradually—days, weeks or months after treatment, depending on the condition being treated. Some tumors change more slowly than others and eventually disappear; others just stop growing. That is why we recommend that your pet has periodic follow-ups, which may include CT or MRI scans, to monitor the progress of the treatment. As you go through the follow-up process with your veterinarian, we will continue to offer our support and expertise should you or the doctor reach out to us for assistance.
If SRS is so amazing, why isn’t everybody doing it?
While SRS has been available in human medicine for years, PetCure Oncology’s growing national network is making it widely available to pets for the first time. This emerging treatment represents a true shift in the world of veterinary cancer care, inserting a curative option into a conversation that was previously limited to focusing on easing symptoms and improving quality of life.
SRS is not for every family. Every pet with cancer is not necessarily a candidate. But we believe that increased awareness of this technology is critical to providing pet owners with their full range of treatment options. One of our goals is to make sure everybody knows about it, regardless of which treatment ends up being the most appropriate for any individual pet. We consider spreading the word about SRS to be a potentially life-saving movement… and we would love your help! Share our whiteboard video, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and tell your pet-loving friends about SRS. You might just save a pet’s life!
What defines whether a pet is an appropriate candidate for SRS?
Most pet cancers can be treated through SRS, but since its benefits derive from pinpoint precision and highly targeted radiation, it is a treatment that requires an identifiable tumor mass to be targeted. If a tumor is not large enough to be targeted with the requisite precision, the risk to surrounding healthy tissue is increased. That means cancers that have spread significantly, or blood-cell cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma, are typically not treatable through SRS.
It is also important to note that surgery, if unsuccessful in completely removing a tumor, may actually eliminate SRS as a viable option for your pet. If most of a tumor is removed, the remaining portions may be too small for effective targeting. On the other hand, since SRS both shrinks and encapsulates a tumor, the odds of fully removing a tumor through surgery can be significantly increased following SRS treatment.
For these reasons, among others, we encourage pet owners to review all of the treatment options before selecting a treatment course. Here is a list of some common cancers that can usually be treated through SRS. If you want to find out whether your pet may be a candidate, click here to find the PetCure Oncology center closest to you.
How much does radiation therapy cost?
Each pet’s treatment is different, but cost can range anywhere from $1,800 to $11,000 depending on the course of treatment and the factors of each individual case. SRS falls on the higher end of that scale, while other options such as CFRT or palliative care fall on the lower end. We will provide you with a detailed, written cost estimate for any treatments you are considering so that you can make an informed decision.
What forms of payment does PetCure Oncology accept?
We accept all major credit cards, cash and CareCredit.
CareCredit is a health care credit card that enables you to obtain the care your pet needs and schedule monthly payments that fit your budget. You can apply online at www.carecredit.com. If you have any questions, please ask our customer service team.
Is SRS covered by pet health insurance?
Most of the major pet insurers cover radiosurgery. Please be aware, however, that your pet must have health insurance in place before a cancer diagnosis.
Support: We are here for you
Our pets are beloved members of our family, and dealing with a cancer diagnosis can be frightening and frustrating. Sometimes people do not understand why we choose to go to the lengths we do to save a pet. Other times, we have to make the unspeakably difficult decision to let a pet go.
We understand. And so do other pet families who have been where you are now.
That is why PetCure Oncology provides this forum where you can post questions to our care team or to other families who have taken the cancer journey with their pet.
Simply fill out the form below. We will reply to you privately via email, as well as post answers here so other families can benefit from the information, too. If your questions are directed to other pet families, please allow up to one week for a response.