I think it is important to clear up some words about dog cancer, and cancer in general. It helps to define what you are talking about with the vet or oncologist so you can get the best info to make your decisions.
As your dog’s primary health advocate, you will be called upon to make some choices. When that time comes, you need to have the clarity of thought to make wise decisions.
So, let’s clarify some terms!
Medical people throw the terms stage andgrade around like everyone knows what they are talking about. They are kind of close conceptually, but are not the same.
The stage of a tumor usually refers to how far along it is. When we say “stage”, we look at the size of the tumor, the number of tumors, and whether the cancer cells have invaded the system to travel to other sites in the body.
So a late stage tumor, or a late stage cancer, usually means it is far along. Generally speaking, this implies it is more difficult to cure or get long term remissions.
An early stage tumor or cancer means that it is not far along. Usually these are smaller, fewer, and have not traveled to other sites in the body other than where you find the tumor or cancer cells.
The grade of the cancer describes how aggressive it is. This means that a low grade cancer is one that is not very aggressive, but a high grade cancer is more aggressive.
Get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide for more helpful information and tools
Aggressive cancers do things like grow quickly, invade the area right around the tumor, or get into the circulation and spread to other body parts (metastasis). More aggressiveness means more danger.
Certain cancers have different grades.
Mast cell tumors, white blood cell tumors (lymphosarcoma, leukemia), mammary tumors (breast cancer), melanomas, and hemangiosarcomas can vary in terms of their aggressiveness. Some advance very quickly while others are more smoldering. So you have different grades in single cancer types.
Osteosarcoma (the most common bone cancer in dogs) is usually aggressive. So usually this cancer type is high grade.
Different cases of cancer can have different stages too.
You could have a bladder cancer (usually transitional cell carcinoma) that is a tiny bump in the bladder wall (but has not spread) in one dog, and a large bladder mass that has spread to lymph nodes in another.
This is an example where you have the same cancer type, but different stages in different dogs.
Let’s keep the info stream going so you can best help your dog!
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.