FAQs about Cancer
Q. “What is cancer?”
A. Cancer is the unregulated growth of cells in the body, often resulting in the formation of a mass or lump called a tumor.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of 10. But half of all cancers are curable if caught early.
Q. “Is it benign or malignant?”
A. As in humans, pet cancer tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors tend to be slow in growing and do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant cancers are faster growing and have the potential to spread to other parts of the body. A specialist can look at the size, shape, and behavior of cells under a microscope to tell whether your pet’s cancer is benign or malignant. Many cancers are curable if caught early.
Q. “What does it mean when my veterinarian talks about cancer “staging”?”
A. Staging is a term used when talking about malignant tumors to indicate how far, if at all, cancer has spread in the body based on the results of diagnostic tests. To determine a cancer’s staging, tests may include sampling of lymph nodes cells, chest radiographs, abdominal radiographs, abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, MRI scan, blood work, special stains, or bone marrow aspiration.
Q. “What tests are there to check for cancer in my pet?”
A. Veterinary oncologists use several types of types to check for cancer. One type of test is called “Cytology.” For this procedure, a fine needle is used to aspirate a growth or tumor and cells are drawn out into a syringe. This test is generally performed on a pet while its awake, and the results are often available within 24 hours of the test.
Another type of test is called “Histopathology.” For this type of test, a pet is sedated or anesthetized while a small sample or the entire tumor in question is surgically removed and sent to a pathology lab to be evaluated, which can provide a more thorough assessment of the condition. Histopathology results are generally available within a week.
Q. “What is tumor grading and why it is important for the prognosis of my pet’s cancer?“
A. If your pet’s tumor is malignant, grading is very important. Tumor grading uses a scale of low, intermediate, and high, corresponding to how fast and aggressive a malignant cancer may be. The lower the grade, the more slow growing a tumor may be and the lower risk for spreading of the cancer.
Q. “What treatments are available for my pet’s cancer?”
A. Pets can receive a variety of medical treatments for cancer including: chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and tyrosine kinase inhibiting drugs.
In addition to or instead of drugs and surgeries, some pet parents opt for natural treatments and find that supplements and special diet/nutrition can work to slow the growth of cancer tumors.
Whether you seek traditional forms of medical intervention or more holistic approaches, a veterinary oncologist can help you create a treatment plan to fit the needs of your pet and your family.
Q. “How can my primary veterinarian help my pet with cancer?”
A. Your primary veterinarian can share basic information about cancer treatment for your pet, promote healing and provide hope. If you seek the advice and care of a veterinary oncologist, your pet’s primary veterinarian can and should be kept updated on laboratory tests, exams, and treatment plans that are developed for your pet.
Q. “Is there anything I can do to help prevent my pet from getting cancer?”
A. There are many common factors that can heighten the risk of cancer in pets. Eliminating or reducing these factors can help and utilizing preventative tests and examinations will help you catch cancer early.
Studies have shown that second hand smoke, for instance, has been linked to cancer formation in dogs and cats. But even more prevalent causes of cancer are things you cannot control – such as the fact that certain breeds of dogs are at a higher risk for certain types of cancer than other breeds and some dogs are simply more prone to cancer. Something at you as a pet parent couldn’t possibly know.
Veterinary experts say that the most common cause of death of pets over 10 years of age is cancer. Therefore, we at Day By Day recommend your family veterinarian perform a physical exam twice yearly, along with blood work and chest x-rays once your pet has reached the age of seven.