Oncology

We understand that the news that your pet has been diagnosed with cancer can be devastating. Each pet and their families needs are unique, which is why we approach each case individually. After a thorough examination of each patient, a review of all diagnostic tests and a consultation with the family, we develop a customized approach to care that may include the following treatment options:

  • Conventional Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Palliative or Supportive Care
  • Oncept Canine Melanoma Vaccine**

Nearly all patients diagnosed with cancer have the potential to receive some form of treatment. Our primary goal is always to maintain the best quality of life for each patient. The extent and duration of therapeutic treatment is dependent on many factors, including the type of the cancer, stage of the disease, available therapies and how the pet responds to the treatment

Currently, VCA Braelinn Village Animal Hospital is one of the limited facilities in the state of Georgia offering the Merial Oncept Canine Melanoma Vaccine.
 

What is Cancer?

Cancer is NOT...a death sentence.

Hearing that your pet has cancer is a devastating experience. You and your family need to be able to make informed decisions about what is best for your pet. The internal medicine staff at VCA Braelinn Village Animal Hospital have expertise in veterinary oncology and are here to help you make the right decisions.

The advances in the detection and treatment of cancer for both pets and humans have been significant. Using the latest treatments, we can extend the quality and duration of your pet's life.
Cancer is however, the number one natural cause of death in older cats and dogs. It accounts for nearly 50 percent of pet deaths each year. Although cancer is the leading cause of death in older pets, it is also one of the most treatable compared with diseases such as heart failure or kidney failure. As with humans, there have been amazing advances in the treatment of cancer that can provide your pet with a high quality of life for years to come.
We want to insure that you and your pet are treated in the most compassionate manner to try and alleviate stress at this very emotional time. We also honor the very important relationship between you, your pet and your primary veterinarian to ensure that all parties are kept up-to-date regarding your pet's condition. There is strength in knowledge and by working together we can insure the best possible care for your pet.
All of our protocols are customized specifically for your pet to provide the best treatment and quality of life possible.
Dr. Avgeris emphasizes the treatment of not only the cancer, but also of you and your pet. We strive to treat you and your pet in the most compassionate and comprehensive manner possible.

How did my pet get cancer?

The cause of cancer in pets, just like in people, is largely unknown. There are certain breeds that tend to get certain types of cancers more often than others, such as large and giant breed dogs developing bone tumors. There are also environmental factors, such as exposure to the sun, which may be associated with increased incidence of cancer. Unfortunately, not enough is known about the cause of cancer to prevent it.

Are pet cancer and human cancer the same?

Most of the cancers we see in dogs and cats are almost identical to the cancers that affect people. They are similar when we look at their biological behavior-how the cancer behaves in the body, what organs it metastasizes (spreads) to, how quickly or slowly the cancer tends to grow. The cancers are also similar in regard to the molecular defects that are the underlying reason for the cell to become malignant or cancerous. They are also comparable at the genetic level - the more we know about the genes involved in both human and veterinary cancers, the more we realize that the same genes are involved.

The difference between veterinary and human oncology lies in the philosophy of treatment. We place the ultimate emphasis on quality of life along with a strong emphasis on trying to cure your pet of its disease. We do not believe in putting your pet through the same level of side effects that people undergoing cancer therapy endure. We believe this because pets have a much more compressed lifespan than humans. Our goal is to ensure that your pet has the best quality of life for the longest possible time. There may be some side effects to the therapy, but our goal is the make sure that your pet enjoys its life for as long as it is viable. We are here to guide you in your decision-making, so that you understand the best treatment options.


Our Promise: To do everything possible to give your pet the longest achievable survival time. The recommendations of the specialist will reflect a balance between quality and quantity of life.

Overview of Treatments

Depending upon the stage and type of cancer, Dr. Avgeris will recommend one or a combination of treatment options that best suits your pet. Multiple treatment options that combine protocols are the rule rather than the exception. This is because the treatment of cancer in animals has become as sophisticated and successful as the treatment of cancer in humans.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is used to treat cancer at the tumor site, as well as the cancer that may have spread through the body. Most chemotherapy drugs act directly on cancer cells, preventing them from maturing or reproducing. Unlike humans, the side effects of chemotherapy in pets are relatively mild. Doses of drugs and protocols are calculated to minimize discomfort to the pet, while providing the most effective defense against the cancer.

As a result, most people are surprised at how well their pets feel while undergoing chemotherapy. The goal is to kill and slow the growth of cancer cells, while producing minimal negative effects on normal cells. If your pet requires a plan of chemotherapy, we are here to develop the plan of attack and administer the treatments. In addition to the latest and best medical treatments, we provide the specialized equipment and supervision that your pet needs. Chemotherapy protocols are frequently changed or customized to achieve the best outcome for your pet.

Which tumors are commonly treated with chemotherapy?

Many types of cancers are treated with chemotherapy. The most common tumor is lymphoma, a systemic cancer of part of the immune system. Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and hemangiosarcoma are both treated with chemotherapy because of the very high likelihood of metastasis (spreading), even after the tumor is removed. Many other types of cancers such as mast cell tumors, mammary gland tumors, bladder cancer, and many others are often treated with chemotherapy.

How is chemotherapy administered?

Chemotherapy can be administered orally in the form of a pill or injected into a vein (intravenous), into a body cavity (such as the chest or bladder), into a muscle (intramuscular), or into the spinal fluid (intrathecal). Currently, most chemotherapy is administered intravenously; however, oral chemotherapy drugs are gaining wider use.

Are there any side effects?

Chemotherapy in pets is very different from chemotherapy in people. Typically, much lower doses of chemotherapy are utilized and treatments spread out over a much longer period of time in order to minimize side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, and inappetance. Many medications are also available to help reduce common chemotherapy-induced complications both before and after your visits. We strive to provide the highest quality of life for both you and your pet.

How should I prepare for treatment?

Most chemotherapy is given in an outpatient setting, typically over a 15-45 minute time period. Some chemotherapy is given slowly over a few hours, but our team will advise you when this is needed. Most animals do not need to be fasted before chemotherapy, but we will make recommendations based upon your pet's unique circumstances.

What should I expect after treatment?

Most pets (80-90%) have minimal if any, side effects after chemotherapy. Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and loss of energy are the four most common side effects and if these do occur they are usually mild. We will discuss ways of preventing these side effects. Our policy is it is best to prevent than to treat!


Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is the use of the body's immune system to treat a disease. We use immunotherapy to treat certain cancers such as: melanoma, hemangiosarcoma, renal cell carcinoma, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma among others. There are various types of immunotherapy ranging from cancer vaccines to injecting cytokines (chemicals that stimulate the body's own immune system). One of the advantages of immunotherapy is that it is generally less toxic that traditional chemotherapy.

Under what conditions is immunotherapy used?

When a tumor is immunogenic (recognized as foreign by the body), immunotherapy can be very effective.

Which tumors are commonly treated with immunotherapy therapy?

The most common tumor is melanoma. A tumor vaccine, the first of its kind in veterinary medicine, was developed to treat this disease and its use has revolutionized the way we treat this disease. Other vaccines for other types of cancers are currently in development.

How is immunotherapy administered?

Subcutaneous methods consist of administration through subcutaneous routes, i.e., injections as well as infusions over time.

Are there any side effects?

The main side effects of this type of therapy are "flu-like" symptoms of malaise and loss of appetite.

How should I prepare for treatment?

Typically, no preparation is necessary for this type of treatment.

What should I expect after treatment?

Your pet may be slightly lethargic and have a decreased appetite for a few days. The tumor may not respond initially, as immunotherapy may take weeks to months to work.

Surgery

Surgery is the oldest form of cancer therapy and has been responsible for the cure of more patients than any other treatment. This great success is mainly due to the development of new surgical techniques combined with chemotherapy and radiation for a total plan of treatment for your pet's cancer. Dr. Avgeris and Dr. Reichert would put together a plan of action to attain the best results for removal and recovery from your pet’s procedure.

Under what conditions is surgery used?

Surgery is a local treatment, meaning the surgeon is trying to remove the mass/tumor from a particular location. Most tumors start in one spot, which is why stressing early detection is a way to increase the chance of successful therapy. If the cancer is found in only one location and the removal of the mass will not adversely affect your pet's quality of life, then surgery will be recommended.

Even if the tumor cannot be removed, surgery is routinely used to obtain a biopsy. This allows oncologists to determine the exact type of cancer your pet has, and allows customized therapy in order to give you and your pet the best results possible.

Which tumors are commonly treated with surgery?

Any tumor that does not spread (metastasize), has a low chance of spreading, or has not yet spread can be treated with surgery. Common tumors, such as soft tissue sarcomas, osteosarcomas, hemagiosarcomas, mast cell tumors, skin tumors, oral tumors, brain tumors, liver tumors, and gastrointestinal tumors are among the many types of cancer for which surgery can be utilized.

How is surgery done?

Surgery is a technology consisting of a physical intervention on tissues. Other procedures ,such as endoscopy or laparscopy, may be considered surgery if they involve "common" surgical procedure or settings, such as use of a sterile environment, anesthesia, antiseptic conditions, typical surgical instruments, and suturing or stapling.

How should I prepare for treatment?

Most surgical procedures require anesthesia, therefore your pet should be fasted (no food and no water) prior to surgery. Please ask the surgeon for the details on how long before surgery you should take away your pet's food and water, as this varies between surgical procedures.

What should I expect after treatment?

Your pet may be quiet or lethargic (low energy) after surgery. Your pet may need to be hospitalized for a few days depending on the type and extent of the surgical procedure. Your should talk to the surgeon prior to surgery to insure that you and your pet are well prepared for the post-operative period. The post-operative period is incredibly variable based upon the type, extent, and duration of the surgical procedure as well as your pet's general overall health.

 

Cost of Care

An Important Perspective

Like cancer care for people, cancer diagnosis and treatment for pets has made remarkable advancements through the years. Today, new diagnostic and treatment protocols in the hands of highly trained veterinary cancer specialists are improving the outcomes for pets. As with any life-saving treatment, this level of advanced care has its cost. Fortunately, the capabilities, science, and expertise now available in the world of specialized veterinary medicine, the cost is still considerably less than one would find in a human healthcare environment.

Balancing Care and Costs

As with human cases of cancer, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are the standards when it comes to treating a pet. To put all these costs into proper perspective and understand the true value associated with them, it helps to understand key factors related to veterinary cancer care.

Health Insurance - When a person faces cancer, there are numerous costs associated with care and treatment. of which are covered indirectly through health insurance premiums. In veterinary medicine, less than 5% of our pets have health insurance. Until that number changes, a majority of these costs are carried by the pet owner.

Diagnostic and Treatment - As in human cancer treatment, many of the costs to deliver cancer therapies can be quite high. The equipment and therapies we use are often the same used for cases of human cancer. For example with chemotherapy; most, if not all, of the drugs used in cases of pet treatment are the same as those developed to fight human cases of cancer. In fact, there are very few treatments that are created exclusively for animals. Safeguards required for both the equipment and therapies add another layer of cost and complexity when providing this level of advanced care.

Helping patients and their owners - Our number one priority is to help achieve the best outcome possible for you and your pet, while doing whatever we can to help you manage the costs of care needed to make this level of care possible. We accept most credit cards and CareCredit, and will assist with any medical forms required by your pet insurance policy.

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