Cancer and cancer therapy are perhaps the most frightening health concern in the world today. Most people have been exposed to the disease and so the thought of their pet with cancer is very foreboding. Our approach to cancer is very conservative. Our goal is “good quality of life for as long as possible and not cure at all costs”. We strive not to make the treatment worse than the disease. In most cases our patients are healthy pets with “lumps”; our aim is do as much as we can to the disease with limited, if any, adverse effects on the pet.
Cancerous tumours are made up of cells that have already managed to beat the immune system, allowing them to invade the surrounding tissue, and/or spread (metastasize) to other organs. Often resistant to chemotherapy, more than one weapon (i.e. surgery, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, hyperthermia and photodynamic therapy) may be needed to turn the tide against cancer. For example, surgery may remove the primary tumour, but radiation therapy can kill off any microscopic cancerous cells left behind. Sometimes medical and/or radiation therapy will be used to shrink the tumour so that surgery can then remove it more easily.
If a tumour can be removed completely it may be curative. If curative surgery is not possible, other complementary modalities will be used to aid treatment. For example, radiation may be used to shrink the tumour prior to surgery, or if only partial resection is possible post-operative chemotherapy or radiation may be recommended. Our surgeons are speciality trained and have been taught to maximize the benefit of surgery to the patient with minimal compromise of quality of life.
Though we use some of the same medications as in human medicine, we use doses and protocols geared towards optimal treatment of our pets with minimal side effects. Generally, less than 20% of our patients have any adverse effects, and less than 5% will have symptoms that may transiently affect their quality of life. Protocols are constantly adjusted to minimize these effects. Most pets lose little if any hair. All chemotherapy is overseen by speciality-trained vets.
Radiation therapy is an effective weapon that can cure or control your pet’s cancer, but it may also be used as palliatively to relieve cancer-related discomfort and provide more quality time for pets. In human medicine, over half of all cancer patients undergo radiation therapy as part of their treatment.
Although we do not have our own radiation therapy facility yet, we have established and will have an ongoing relationship with veterinary radiation therapy facilities so as to be able to consult on, explain and offer state of the art modalities of treatment (including photon and electron teletherapy and brachytherapy), treatment planning (including, SRS/SBRT & IMRT), and equipment to our patients. Though the thought of radiation is very intimidating, most patients, including geriatric pets, handle radiation very well. All therapy and planning is supervised by a speciality trained vets.
Immunotherapy and Gene therapy
These modalities are perhaps some of the most innovative and encouraging areas of research in human and veterinary medicine today. There are ongoing studies, protocols and vaccines that may be available for your pet. Here we attempt to stimulate the body to help itself deal with the cancer. Minimal if any side effects are seen.
Our Oncology Department provides specialized medical and radiation oncology consultation services. We are supported by the other specialists that provide diagnostic imaging, internal medicine and surgery services. We feel it is our obligation to keep the primary-care practitioners apprised of the new developments in cancer therapy and to help them provide optimal cancer care to their clients and patients.
Please give us the opportunity to discuss your patients disease process to talk through possible therapeutic options, whether it be to treat or not to treat. We consider success to be the improvement and/or maintenance of your patient’s quality of life for as long as possible, within the limits that your clients feel are appropriate for them and their pet.
To learn more about Paragon’s oncology department and clinicians, as well as our other veterinary specialties, call us at 01924 908333 or visit www.paragonreferrals.co.uk