I often get asked why I practice Oncology and how I do what I do day after day. There are many reasons I’m passionate about Veterinary Oncology, but three really stand out. First and foremost, I’m often able to preserve a cancer patients’ quality of life for longer than expected. Secondly, I typically develop amazing relationships with my patients and their owners. And third, Veterinary Oncology changes and progresses with new therapies and advancements so frequently that it keeps me on my toes.
June is National Cancer Survivor Month. In its honor, I’d love to share some of my favorite stories that embody hope and demonstrate the strength and resilience of my patients.
Cami is an almost 12-year-old female domestic short-haired cat who had multiple intermediate grade II mammary tumors. She underwent surgery to remove the cancerous tumors along with all her mammary glands (termed radical mastectomy) to reduce the chance of tumor recurrence. Over 85 percent of mammary tumors in cats are malignant and they tend to grow and metastasize quickly. Cami started chemotherapy after the surgery and remains cancer-free 18 months later!
Milo is an almost 10-year-old male Greyhound that presented back in October of 2015 with high grade B-cell lymphoma – a cancer that arises from immune cells called lymphocytes and can affect virtually any organ in the body. Lymphoma most commonly affects the lymph nodes throughout the body, but it also frequently can affect the liver, spleen, and bone marrow; sometimes even the kidneys and lungs. Like most dogs on chemotherapy for lymphoma, he tolerated chemotherapy extremely well, and continues to be happy, playful and in remission almost 3 years later!
Lark first came to me as a 7-year-old Labrador with a metastatic mast cell tumor. This is the most common skin cancer we see in dogs. Unfortunately, in Lark’s case the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and spleen. She underwent successful chemotherapy before and after surgery to remove the mass on her leg and the affected lymph node. At her last recheck, she was doing well and in complete remission. She is now 18 months out from her diagnosis when her prognosis was less than 6 months.
Yoshi is a 12-year-old male Siamese cat. He came in with a large tumor in his belly that was blocking his intestinal tract. Dr. Dvorak, one of our board-certified surgeons removed the mass and Yoshi was diagnosed with high-grade lymphoma. The average survival in cats with this diagnosis is only 6 to 9 months. After his first dose of chemotherapy, Yoshi was in complete remission. He completed chemotherapy over 1 year ago and continues to do well 2 and a half years from the time we first met him.
Gizmo and Harley
Gizmo and Harley were both diagnosed with metastatic lung cancers (carcinoma and mesothelioma, respectively) and started on chemotherapy that has good penetration to the lungs. Both dogs had a wonderful quality of life and lived over 18 months after their diagnoses. Without treatment, they would have been expected to survive 1-2 months. It is remarkable how long they lived. We loved them very much and miss them dearly.
Oncology at CARE
I’m a firm believer in educating yourself to recognize clinical signs of your pet having cancer. The earlier your pet is diagnosed, the more likely that he or she will survive treatment and live a long and happy life. If your pet is showing symptoms of cancer, schedule an appointment with your primary vet or our team at CARE.