The job of your oncologist is to determine what the best treatment options are for your dog or cat. Sometimes just one treatment modality is advised. Other times, a combination of treatments are recommended. This will all depend on the tumor grade, stage, and other health issues your dog or cat might have.
Surgery – This is the best way to physically remove a tumor from the body. The larger the tumor, the more difficult a surgery may be. The goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumor, but sometimes this is not possible based on tumor size or location. Sometimes lymph nodes are also removed with surgery.
“Margins” are a way to evaluate whether the tumor was completely excised (cut out) or not after surgery. This is done by a pathologist, who looks at the tissue submitted by the surgeon. If the margins are narrow or incomplete, then a tumor has a greater chance of growing back at the surgery site.
Radiation therapy – This involves the use of photon or electron energy to treat a tumor. It is often used in combination with surgery, if a tumor cannot be completely removed with surgery. Sometimes it is used instead of surgery, if surgery is not feasible. It is also used for pain management of some cancer types.
Chemotherapy – This is the use of special drugs that kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy inhibits rapidly growing cells (cancer), but may also damage normal cells (bone marrow, intestinal tract, hair). Generally, normal cells repair themselves and side effects are limited. It is often used in conjunction with surgery and/ or radiation therapy. Some cancers are treated with chemotherapy alone. Some chemotherapy drugs are oral and some are given intravenously.
There are many things to consider when treating a pet for cancer:
- The overall health of the pet
- The age of the pet
- How aggressive is the cancer
- What are the chances of remission
- How much time will be gained with treatment
- What will the pet’s quality of life be like during and after treatment
- What are the risks and side effects of treatment
- What is the impact on the family with regard to supportive care
- What is the cost
- What is the accessibility
- How stressful are the visits on the pet