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

Dog Prostate Cancer: Intraoperative Radiation

Updated: October 12th, 2018

Prostate cancer in the dog is very different from that in people.  Not because the cancers themselves are that different, but because treatment success is different.

This has not been good news for our dogs.  The success rates (due to surgical techniques, mainly) for dealing with human prostate cancer are much better than for dogs.

However those of you who are close to a veterinary school or referral center may be able to take advantage of radiation therapy for prostate cancers of different kinds.  This can help, so read on.

One specific kind of radiation therapy is during an operation, where the prostate cancer is exposed surgically.  This allows the beam to really contact the tumor.  This treatment is called intraoperative radiation.

A study was done looking at this procedure and its success rates. Here is the abstract if you are interested.

What are the facts?  As usual, we need these as a critical part of our treatment plan analysis.

Analyzing a treatment plan before starting, or upon re-assessment, is a major part of being your dog’s primary health advocate.  This is a big topic in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.  Since there is no cure (yet) for cancer, there is no “correct” way to treat many cancers in dogs.  Thus, we must gather and weigh information, including our own values and judgments.

About half the dogs receiving intraoperative radiation for the prostate cancer enjoyed a complete remission, which lasted about 6 months.  In the world of Hard-To-Cure cancers, as tough as it is to accept, this is not that bad.

The complications of radiation in this area included inflammation of the colon (colitis), which occurs in a little over half the dogs. Roughly one fifth of the dogs that received pelvic radiation ended up with a hole in the colon (perforation).  These numbers were taken from another study looking at radiation in the pelvic area (which is where the prostate gland lives).

This is pretty nasty, but the majority (about four out of five) dogs did not develop a hole in their colon.  So the odds are still decent.  You should also realize that many of the dogs in the safety study had a  radiation potentiator (a special sponge with cisplatin in it)  implanted at the surgery site, so these stats are not just for strict radiation only. This sponge usually helps increase survival times.

However, I will point out that a perforation of the colon would require a second surgery, and for many dog lovers dealing with this particular case that might be too much for their loved dogs. This should be considered.

Here is the study on these complications.

Since prostate cancer is a tough one, I hope that this information may help as a part of a Full Spectrum Approach to dog cancer.


Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Methadone Use on March 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is required to get set up? I’m assuming having a
    blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very web smart so I’m not 100% certain. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Kudos

  2. jOAN on July 23, 2011 at 4:55 am

    I have a bull terrier, 9 yrs 8 mo. Although just starting w/ investigation it is somewhat similar to Ricks. Win symptoms presented themselves with defecating every time he needed to urinate with lots of straining with defecation. Reg. Vet initially got good blood work w/ ex of elevated white blood ct and a few cast and minimal blood in urine so treated w/baytril. I went a few days but was not comfortable w/what I was seeing and went back asking to ck for prostate enlargement. Ultrasound showed enlargement, did internal, internist report feels there is a 2 cm mass, wash results from LSU Vet. Sch. of Med. came back negative. Aspiration is the next advised step.

    He is hyper estrogen and considered atypical cushings, but cancer is being assumed b/c he is neutered.

    I would like to know, as Rick, is it possible for a neutered dog to have bph or a seratoli tumor of the prostate considering the hyper estrogen issue.

  3. Rick on November 6, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I have a 9 year old Sharpie (neutered very young) that had lost significant weight and was straining a little when having bowel movements and I noticed his urine stream wasn’t as strong as normal. So I took him into the local vet and she did an exam and felt a swollen prostate. Blood work was performed and came out normal. This led to going to a vet internist who did an ultrasound and told me my pup’s prostate was about 5 times the normal size it should be. Based on the fact that our dog was neutered and from the vet’s experience, he indicated that he was 99.9% sure that it was prostate cancer. So, after debating what to do, I decided to have a biopsy done which was performed through the urethra through a catheter. This came back negative for cancer and the pathology indicated BPH…which I think is impossible since my pup is neutered. Or is it?

    So my next decision is to have a needle biopsy which will get to the center of the mass and of course the dog has to be put under to perform this biopsy. That happens on Wednesday so I probably won’t get results until Thurs or Friday.

    He’s currently on Peroxicam and I just started him on Mirtazapine and I’m going to start giving him a stool softener because if he eats more, I don’t want him to have pain when he poops more. Oh and I read about Saw Palmetto and started that a week ago just because I heard it can reduce swelling in the prostate.

    My question is… If by some miracle that this growth is not prostate cancer, what could it possibly be in a neutered dog? And what do you think can be done?

    I think if it is cancer than we will opt for palliative care as there is no cure and radiation is too tricky and might extend my little guy’s life, but I don’t think it’s worth the life extension if he is in more pain. This whole thing is so emotionally draining and I just don’t want my little guy to suffer. So any thoughts on what else could the grown be and also any advice on things I can do to make my little guy more comfortable as he continues to be a little trouper. Thanks!

  4. Eric Kelly on June 23, 2010 at 5:07 am

    My Beagle turns 9 in 3.5 weeks and was just diagnosed with prostate cancer a week ago today. My vet used an ultrasound after “Darby” was having no relief on the two different antibiotics that were prescribed over a week and a half period. A 4.6 cm tumor was found during the ultrasound, and I had them do a biopsy to determine if it was malignant. It’s been a rough week. I’m not too sure what to do. He is on anti-inflammatory and pain medications now which are helping out greatly for the time being. Before the ultrasound, the Vet thought it might be a bladder infection. His symptoms consisted of frequent urination (he was having accidents in the house), Straining during urination and bowel movements, and soft more narrow stool. His back would arch (as if he was trying to poop) while he was trying to urinate, and it would only come out in spurts. I know there is no cure for canine prostate cancer, but I’m looking for the best way to improve Darby’s quality of life for as long as I can.

  5. Tommy on March 15, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Our Jack Russell was neutered as a pup. He is now 11 Y.O. and has just been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. The vet suggested Chemo, but as the cancer is well advanced, he didn’t advise it due to lower success (advanced cancer) & high costs.

    The prostate is enlarged and pressing on both intestine and urine duct. He now has great trouble doing both Numbers 1 & 2, and the bladder is now quite large. We are trying to use the Budwig diet (cottage cheese + flaxseed oil) mix .. any comments ?

    We added fresh blueberries & strawberries added, but he doesn’t want to eat the mix.

    We even diluted it by half by adding his regular wet food, to no avail, although he did eat a little.

    Any comments or suggestions on this approach, or how to make the mix more palatable ?

  6. Susan on February 11, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    My smart blonde/apricot Shephard passed away on 1/6/10 while on a morning walk of a heart attack due to hemangiosarcoma of the liver that had spread to the lungs and right kidney. I wish the vet had pushed the altra sound instead of the pepcid when Brista threw up stomach bile, had a soft bowel and a descreased appetite. Isn’t there a proceedure followed to rule out cancer when there are unexplained symptoms?
    Now I am grieving and wonder if you have some materials that would help this process.

  7. Kammee on February 11, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Prostate cancer as well as various mammory cancers can be treatd in humansas well as dogs with 3 products with great sucess the first one is called Angiostop the secound one is Revivin and the third one is Momine with great results. The myomine is the unique product because it rids the body of excess estrogen (estrodial) whih is the end product of tesosterone. I have had great suscess with the Angiostop and Revivin for my dog Dannon who has mast cell sarcoma. when the myomine is added it works great for estrogen driven cancers. Just remember never give up and look at all of the options before making a decision. Not all vets know about all of the other options availiable. You must educate yourself.

  8. Kate on February 3, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Hello Dr D,

    Thanks as always for the very nice info. I was just wondering, since prostrate cancer in a male human is only detected when it is at its critical stage, would it be the same for dogs as well? Thanks!

    • Dr. Dressler on February 7, 2010 at 9:07 pm

      Dear Kate,
      Sadly, due to a lack of emphasis on testing “healthy” dogs, we don’t pick up prostate cancer in dogs often until later in the disease. Humans fare better, with a blood test called the PSA levels giving physicians a warning that something is up in the man’s prostate:
      Dr D

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