Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

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Cancer Cure?

Recently I heard the comment that medicine (in my case, veterinary medicine) is primitive.

This is a very interesting comment, especially if we are talking about canine cancer.

When you are coping with a canine cancer diagnosis, the question of curing cancer comes up frequently.  Now, shifting back to this idea about medicine being primitive, let’s look at some  assumptions so we can clear up some concepts about cancer in the dog.

First, the idea of cancer care being primitive would be based on expectations.  Second, many of us have heard that we do not have a cure for cancer.  “The Cure For Cancer” is a goal of modern science.

But wait.  I recently read in USA today that at an event in Estes, Colorado, it was proclaimed that we cure half of the dogs with cancer.

If we are able to cure half the dogs with cancer, why is it that we are still searching for the cure for cancer?

Well, we are of course talking about the other half.

So what makes a cancer curable?  Let’s look at a concept that needs more attention: systemic disease.

If a cancer is located in a single location in the body, and that location can be removed surgically, and there are no cancer cells (or late stage pre-cancerous cells) left in the body, then we have a situation where the cancer can be cured.

The situation is different if there are cancer cells dispersed in the body, either in the area around the surgery site (having moved from the central location into the surrounding neighborhood), or in a distant location (spread in the circulation).

In these cases, the phrase used in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide is Hard to Cure.  These are the ones where the cancer cells have spread into the body, and this is what most clinicians might call systemic disease.

Those cancers where the cells are isolated to a single location can be removed with surgery.  This is perhaps the only way, at this point in time, that cancers can be cured.

Perhaps this is why my client made the statement that medicine is primitive. The sole way that we cure cancers in veterinary medicine is by cutting them out, when it is possible.

It is important to realize what the goals of treatment are for those cancers that are more systemic (Hard to Cure).  These would include lymphosarcoma, osteosarcoma, many mammary cancers, hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, many mast cell tumors, and others.

Other Hard to Cure cancers would be the ones that might be removable with surgery, but are in a location that makes them difficult to remove.  These tend to send out cells into the surrounding neighborhood around the tumor itself. Common examples are fibrosarcoma, squamous cell carcinomas, transitional cell carcinoma (often in the bladder), and spindle cell tumors of various kinds.

So, the bottom line is finding out what type of cancer we are dealing with is critical.  This is part of your data collection stage of the plan in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.  Once this is established, clear goals and expectations can be defined by you and your vet or oncologist.

Best,

Dr D

About the Author: Demian Dressler, DVM


Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM is known as the "dog cancer vet" and is author of Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog's Life Quality and Longevity. Visit his blog and sign up free to get the latest information about canine cancer. Go to http://www.DogCancerBlog.com.

  • Barbara O’Quinn

    Dr. D, I have a 9-year-old Jack Russell Terrier who was diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphosarcoma almost a year ago. He’s undergone 10 months of chemo and is doing great….in complete remission….and his vet just told me his treatments are complete, but that more than likely the disease will return in a year or so. I’m terrified of stopping treatment, and wonder why the chemo can’t continue to keep the cancer from returning. Can you explain?

  • http://www.wishcuit.com Kelly Kaliszewski

    Dr. D.
    Thanks for another wonderful article. I participated in the K-9 cancer walk in Estes Park in honor and memory of my dog Cain, who I lost to cancer last November. Your article reminds me that there is a positive side; the half that have been cured, and adds additional fuel to my passion to do all that I can to help find a cure for those who haven’t.

  • Linda Rusick

    Very informative. Our dog was just started about a week ago on MT. 1mg. in the morning. 1mg. at night. I noticed he now has very, very dry skin. He’s flaking all over. He never had this before. Could this be a side affect of the MT? My Vet told me he has 16 dogs on this therapy and none have had any side affects. What do you think?

  • beth

    Dr. D,
    My 10 1/2 yo Boxer Pit mix was just diagnosed with stage 2 myxosarcoma. The vet was unable to excise the entire tumor with good margins and is recommending radiation, which seems like a viable option since the tumor is reported to have low rate of metastasis and high rate of local recurrence. I am consulting homeopathic vets in my area and have already changed her diet to a homemade high protein/fat, low carb one, although I am still confused about whether to give her any carbs (brown rice, oatmeal). I don’t want to feel the cancer cells. Which supplements are recommended to avoid stimulating pancreatitis from the diet change? Also, the amount of fatty acids provided should be calculated by the total fatty acids in each fish oil/krill pill, regardless of the amount of fish oil/krill mg per geltab, correct? This would mean from a 1200 mg fish oil pill with 300 mg of total fatty acid, I would need to feed my dog 20 geltabs a day to get the 6,000 mg of fatty acids for a 60 pound dog.

    Thank you!

  • james

    guys. r u kidding me. stop the meds. make ur dog a vegan plus flaxseed oil and you’ll be as shocked to death as i was. when i was told this i laughed but i became desperate and im soooo thankful i did. google budwig diet…you’ll be happy u did. good luck

  • coral

    coral,
    hi..Dr.d well is very sad truly so sad…my dog name doggie…seen last year on june 2011 find out in his left leg got one cell tumors about size egg, so we bring him to check than the doctor said need to do operation..so that the cell tumors wont spread out, so we decide let him do the operation, but the problem after take out this cell tumors, after 8 month later in this few week 28 feb 2012, i bring him to check again do x-ray the doctor said is a cell cancer spread out truth his heart …is very upset doctor there no medicince to cure , so he got propably 2 to 3months ….i am very sad i am not a good master to him, his we me about 10years is truly want to let him go….oh god i wish there is a mircale for him…..thks