Cancer in Pets

Posted on June 12, 2015

Cancer treatment in pets has undergone tremendous advancement over the years.  While surgery has been the most widely used treatment option, in recent years, chemotherapy and radiation therapy have emerged as viable options in treating tumors in pets.  As cancer remains the leading cause of death in older pets, more and more owners are resorting to more powerful forces such as chemotherapy and radiation to prolong the lives of their beloved family members.

While not as common as chemotherapy, radiation therapy has become a very powerful tool in fighting caner in pets.  In cases of more superficial tumors such as those diagnosed in skin cancer, veterinarians often use orthovoltage machines.  Cobalt machines are also used in treating skin cancer as they pose minimal risk to the bone while treating larger tumors.  In cases of deep tissue tumors, linear accelerators, similar to those used in human oncology, are more commonly used.

The ultimate goal in radiation therapy is not always tumor elimination however.  It is important to consider the quality of life and the effects of long-term radiation therapy in managing cancer patients.  In addition to cancer treatment, radiation therapy can also be used as an adjunct to certain treatments for anti inflammation therapy.

Lasting an average of 3 to 6 weeks, radiation therapy is often composed of short, five-day week treatment regimens.  Accompanied by early and late side effects, radiation therapy is fairly localized and tends to only affect the treated area.  Some commonly seen side effects are drying of the skin, irritation of the mucosal membrane and even formation of ulcers.  While uncomfortable and irritating, these side effects are usually short-lived and easily reversible.

Late side effects resulting from radiation therapy generally tend to appear months after the initiation of treatment and generally affect deeper tissues such as the brain and spinal cord.  Managing the radiation levels along with a positive support system and proper care, can reduce the onset of late side effects and lead to a much more positive and productive quality of life.