Many forms of cancer are treated with chemotherapy. The goal is always to extend a pet's good quality of life for as long as possible - 80% of all cancer is cured surgically. When we are not able to cure with surgery, we may reach for chemotherapy. Metastatic disease (when the tumor has spread to other parts of the body or exceeds the surgical margins) will likely respond to chemotherapy. Cancer types treated at Family Pet Clinic of Redondo Beach includes Lympohoma, Mast Cell Tumors, Hemangiosarcoma, Fibrosarcoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma, Osteosarcoma, Leukemia, and mammary gland adenocarcinoma.
What is Cancer?
Cancer occurs when a normal cell "goes wrong." Its normal regulatory processes disengage and it begins to divide quickly and without control, The organ to which the original cell belonged is destroyed as the cancer cells obliterate its structure. Other local tissues may also become invaded as the tumor cells grow inexorably into them.
Cancer cells break off the primary tumor and travel via blood or lymph vessels to new areas of the body. Wherever theses cells lodge, they may start new tumors far from the original tumor but just as deadly. This process continues until there is not enough normal tissue left to sustain life.
What is a Cure?
Cure is the permanent removal of all traces of tumor such that no further treatment is needed. In effect it is a permanent state of remission. While this is a possibility for your pet, it is more constructive and realistic to focus on increasing quality lifetime. Treatment may be thought of as an exchange of only a short time with your pet for a long time with your pet, It is important to keep goals in proper perspective through the treatment of this cancer.
It is important to note that most patients (especially dogs) are not feeling particularly sick at the time of diagnosis. It may be tempting to hold off on treatment until the pet seems more ill. Waiting can drastically reduce the chance for long term survival; better remission quality is obtained if the patient is treated while he/she still feels healthy.
What is Chemotherapy?
The word chemotherapy conjures images of people losing their hair and suffering chronic nausea. Chemotherapy simply means therapy using medication (as opposed to surgery or radiation). Decades of research has gone into patient comfort, minimizing side effects and maximizing response so it is important to keep an open mind, The following are common questions pet owners commonly have regarding chemotherapy for their pet.
What is Remission?
Remission is the state in which tumor symptoms have been abated and the patient is as comfortable as and indistinguishable from any normal animal. Prolonged remission is the goal of cancer therapy which, for most lymphoma cases, means chemotherapy.
My dog is not acting sick in any way, Shouldn't I wait until she as least feels sick before beginning chemotherapy?
This might seen like a reasonable approach at first glance but let us assure you that is in not. One of the most important factors in determining the quality of remission (i.e., how fast we get remission and how long it lasts) is whether or not the patient is feeling sick at the time chemotherapy is started.
Will Chemotherapy make my dog sick?
Probably not. Nausea and infection are possibilities but most dogs do not experience any such complication. Only 7% of patients require hospitalization due to side effects of chemotherapy. The bottom line here is to know that animals rarely get sick from chemotherapy but that you should know what to do in case of a problem.
Will Chemotherapy make my dog lose his hair or go bald?
While whiskers are commonly lost, substantial hair loss is not experienced by most dogs or cats on chemotherapy for cancer. Some breeds can have a baldness issue: the Old English Sheepdog, the poodle, the Lhasa apso, and the Shih Tzu.
What is the survival rate for animals undergoing chemotherapy?
The median survival time for most dogs on chemotherapy is approximately one year with 25% of dogs surviving two years.
Cancers Treated at Family Pet Clinic Include:
Lymphoma, also called lymphosarcoma, is a highly malignant tumor of the lymph system. It is the most common form of cancer in both humans and small animals.
When lymphocytes become cancerous within a lymph node, the node swells and hardens. Malignant lymphocytes readily travel through the lymph vessels to nearby lymph nodes., Soon all the nodes are enlarged. Ultimately, the bone marrow (where most blood cells are formed) is affected, the immune system is destroyed, and severe anemia and weakness claim the victim's life.
Without treatment, animals with lymphoma are expected to live 4-8 weeks from the time of diagnosis.
Mast Cell Tumors
A normal mast cell possesses granules of biochemicals meant for use against invading parasites which it releases when they come in contact. The mast cell can form a tumor made of many mast cells. When this happens, the cells of the tumor are unstable. This means they release their toxic granules with simple contact or even at random. Mast cell tumors are especially common in dogs accounting for approximately one skin tumor in every five. The Boxer is at an especially high risk, as are related breeds: English Bulldog, Boston Terrier. Most mast cell tumors arise in the skin but technically they can arise anywhere that mast cells are found. Grade III tumors account for approximately 25% of all mast cell tumors and they behave very invasively and aggressively. If only surgical excision is attempted without supplementary chemotherapy, a mean survival time of 18 weeks (4-5 months) can be expected. Certain drugs used to treat cancer have been particularly helpful in combating mast cell disease.
Hemangiosarcoma is a malignant tumor of blood vessel cells. Tumors can theoretically arise from any tissue where there are blood vessels (which amounts to anywhere in the body). The skin form can be removed surgically and should be taken care of promptly since approximately 1/3 of cases spread internally. This tumor is associated with serious internal bleeding and rapid internal spread. Fortunately, it is not completely without therapy options and, as long as expectations are realistic, temporary remissions are possible. Surgery alone has been associated with anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months median survival time depending on the location of the cancer. Additional treatment with chemotherapy is recommended if cure is the goal.
Fibrosarcomas are malignant tumors derived from the fibrous connective tissue. They are the most common type of soft-tissue sarcoma tumors in cats, and are also frequently observed in dogs. Most fibrosarcomas form in the skin or the mouth. This cancer commonly reoccurs after surgical removal of the tumor and chemotherapy can aid in discouraging the "bad" cells and prolonging the pets life.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is essentially skin cancer and can spread to nearby tissues or structures, causing damage. This is most worrisome around the nose, eyes, and ears. Areas with lighter colored hair, or light colored animals in general, are at a higher risk. It is not always possible to remove the cancer surgically due to the affected area. Chemotherapy can reduce the cancer dramatically.
Osteosarcoma is by far the most common bone tumor of the dog, usually striking the leg bones of larger breeds. Osteosarcoma usually occurs in middle aged or elderly dogs but can occur in a dog of any age; larger breeds tend to develop tumors at younger ages. Osteosarcoma can develop in any bone but the limbs account for 75-85% of affected bones. It develops deep within the bone and becomes progressively more painful as it grows outward and the bone is destroyed from the inside out. Median survival time for dogs who do not receive chemotherapy for osteosarcoma is 4 to 5 months from the time of diagnosis.
Leukemia is an over abundance of while blood cells. Normally white blood cell counts go up in response to infection, inflammation, allergy, and even stress. Leukemia goes far beyond elevations in "normal" ranges. The patient with leukemia has an over-abundance of a particular white blood cell. The bloodstream is swarmed with cancerous white blood cells and the bone marrow from whence they came is consumed with making cancer cells. It quickly spreads to the bloodstream, spleen and liver. The bone marrow is nearly obliterated by the cancer cells, leading to deficiencies in the other blood cells the bone marrow is supposed to be making.
Mammary Gland Adenocarcinoma
A female pet spayed before her first heat cycle can expect never to develop a mammary tumor of any kind! If she is allowed to experience more than one heat cycle, the risk is driven up to one in four. Because mammary tumors are promoted by female hormones, spaying at any age is helpful in tumor prevention. They behave malignantly but how aggressively malignant they are depends not on what type they are (which is found by sending a sample to a laboratory to be tested). Surgery should be scheduled to removed the tumor however some have grown too deep, or affect too much tissue, to remove completely. Chemotherapy is indicated for incompletely removed tumors or tumors that have already spread