Winning the Battle of Understanding Cancer in Pets
If you have a pet who has been diagnosed with cancer, things are scary enough. To make things, worse, though, the oncology world is filled with jargon and terminology that can intimidate even the most scholarly of pet owners. Take a moment to let us explain some oncology basics so that you can feel more confident in understanding cancer in pets.
Not All Cancer is Equal
Understanding cancer in pets can be difficult unless you have a good grasp on what cancer actually is. All of the tissue in our pet’s bodies are made up of individual cells. Under normal circumstances these cells grow and divide in an orderly, regulated manner. Cancer occurs when these cells begin to grow uncontrolled.
Cancer can happen in any tissue of the body including skin, blood, muscle, and organs. Obviously the effects that it has have a lot to do with the tissue type and what normal functions the cancer is disrupting.
There are two major classifications of cancer, no matter the tissue type, that are important to understand. These are:
Benign – Benign tumors are those that are considered less aggressive. This type of growth, while uncontrolled, tends to keep to itself. Benign tumors do not invade the tissues around them or spread to other places in the body. They can cause problems, however, if their size or location becomes disruptive to normal functioning.
Malignant – Malignant tumors are the ones that we associate with the word cancer. These tumor types are nastier than their benign cousins. They often grown much more aggressively, infiltrating other nearby tissues and spreading throughout the body.
Understanding Cancer in Pets
When wrapping our heads around understanding cancer in pets, there are several other commonly used terms that may not be readily understood by a layperson. Learning what they mean can go a long way to better grasping what is going on with your pet patient.
Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is a type of treatment that uses the administration of medications that are designed to attack fast-growing cells such as those in a malignant tumor.
Metastasize – Metastasis occurs when tumor cells spread to other sites in the body, usually via the bloodstream, away from the site of the primary cancer. Tumors can metastasize anywhere, but commonly spread to places like the lungs and lymph nodes.
Palliative – This type of treatment is aimed at making symptoms more bearable and controlling pain. Palliative care may be elected when a patient is not responding well to treatments designed to beat the cancer or is not a good candidate for other treatments.
Prognosis – Your pet’s prognosis is the expected outcome for your pet based on the type and stage of cancer as well as your pet’s individual factors.
Remission – A pet is considered to be in remission from a cancer when there is no longer evidence of the disease detectable in the body.
Staging – During a pet’s initial assessment, a cancer is often staged (Stage 1, Stage 4) to determine how far it has spread. Tests such as radiographs, ultrasound, and lymph node sampling can help determine a pet’s prognosis and develop the most effective treatment plan for that individual.
When you have a good grasp on the basics of cancer, it is a little easier to understand things when they are explained. Never hesitate to ask us if you have questions or don’t quite get what is going on during your pet’s treatment. Oakland Veterinary Referral Services cares tremendously that you and your furry patient are part of the team and that you understand what is happening, every step of the way.