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

DogCancer.TV: Life Expectancy vs. Gained Life Expectancy in Dog Cancer Treatments

Do you understand the difference between life expectancy and gained life expectancy as it relates to your dog’s cancer? Dr. Dressler and Dr. Ettinger, co-authours of “The Dog Cancer Survival Guide”  discuss life expectancy following diagnosis from a new angle. Watch this quick video to learn more.

Transcript of: Life Expectancy vs. Gained Life Expectancy in Dog Cancer Treatments

James Jacobson: When you’re talking to your veterinarian, a term that you’ll hear badly a lot about is life expectancy. But there is a distinction between gained life expectancy and life expectancy. I’ll have Dr. Dressler first of all start off explaining that.

Dr. Demian Dressler: Well, we should widen back in answering this question. It’s a very good question because a guardian will want to ask, “How much longer doc?” “How much longer does my dog have?” I mean you can be very very careful when we’re looking at these numbers because, it simply because we have a median life expectancy or before a certain given cancer in a certain patient at a certain stage. Many times those numbers need to be taken with a rather large grain of salt because they are from a large population of dogs and they’re not necessarily going to be related to this particular pet. The second point that should be brought up is the difference between life expectancy and gained life expectancy. Now, when we talk about life expectancy we’re saying, ok this given cancer this particular stage are a median survival time is so long after diagnoses. So, that can be called the life expectancy. Now, the gained life expectancy is kind of a new concept to that I’ve developed for the book, and that is, what is the life expectancy that we gain, in other words we look at the untreated cancer, and then we look at the treated cancer for, with a given therapy and we say, ok what’s the difference between those two? That’s the gained life expectancy. My belief is that, that’s actually more useful number to look at, or interval to look out, when we’re assessing whether or not to select a certain treatment. What do we get out of this if we compare the dog without the treatment that life expectancy vs. the dog’s life expectancy with the treatment. That’s the gained life expectancy.

James Jacobson: In the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, you help people figure out those equations, once they have those data points. Dr. Ettinger, what are your thoughts on this subject?

Dr. Susan Ettinger: I think a couple of things a lot of people, they are coming, and they’re not prepared for the statistics and the numbers that they might hear from along colleges. In a sense that if a human goes with the human cancers, most of the survival times were reported in 5 year survival times. You have to look at out how long people live, 70, 80, 90 years plus. Then veterinary oncologists with dogs were often talking about 1 and 2 year survival times. That shocks a lot of people. What I think is also really interesting if I tell some owners that the average survival with treatment is 18 months or a year and a half. Some people don’t think that’s were treating, and some people will be happy to treat if they’re gonna get 4 more months with their pet. So, it’s a very personal decision for the guardian and the family, and I don’t really think there is a wrong or right answer but again, different people have different expectations and I think again we just have to put it in perspective and how long the dog will live with treatment, without treatment and the overall guess me for what a life span is for that breed.

James Jacobson: Dr. Ettinger, thank you so much, you’re in New York. Dr. Dressler in Hawaii, thank you. Thank you both for being with us today.

Dr. Demian Dressler & Dr. Susan Ettinger: Thank you.

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