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Frequency Asked Questions (FAQS) » Cancer

What is cancer?

Cancer is the unregulated growth of cells in the body, often resulting in the formation of a mass or lump called a tumor. Cancer can be benign or malignant. Benign cancers tend to be slow growing and do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant cancers are faster growing, invasive, and have the potential to spread to other parts of the body. Looking at the size, shape, and behavior of cells under a microscope helps to tell whether a cancer is benign or malignant.

What causes cancer?

In general, we do not know. Very few cause and effect relationships have been found in veterinary medicine. We do know that cancer is one of the leading causes of death in companion animals. In one study, 45% of dogs that lived to 10 years or older died of cancer.

What are some warning signs of cancer?

Below are 10 warning signs of cancer in both dogs and cats. Please understand that these are just potential warning signs and should not panic you, but prompt a visit to your veterinarian.
  1. Abnormal swelling that persist or continue to grow
  2. Sores that do not heal
  3. Weight loss
  4. Oral odor
  5. Straining to defecate or urinate
  6. Loss of appetite
  7. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  8. Lameness
  9. Difficulty breathing or coughing
  10. Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina

How can cancer be detected?

A routine physical exam can often detect cancer. Many tests such as blood work, radiographs, ultrasound, needle aspirates, and biopsies can aid in the diagnosis of cancer.

What are the treatment options for cancer?

Cancer is treated in many ways. The three main options in veterinary medicine include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. These modalities may be used alone or in combination, depending on the type of cancer.

Who should I see to discuss the diagnosis?

An oncologist is a cancer specialist. An oncologist can specialize in radiation or medical oncology by completing a residency (advanced training) and passing certifying exams. The term cancer can be very confusing, which is why it is important to speak with an oncologist regarding your pet's diagnosis. This person can help you understand the disease process, treatment, and goals of therapy.

How is my primary care veterinarian involved?

The oncology department at UTCVM believes that your primary veterinarian is an integral part of your pet's wellness. By sharing information, we can best promote healing and provide hope. Your pet's primary veterinarian is kept updated on all laboratory tests, exams, and options that are discussed, with you and your family. We work as a specialized extension of your veterinarian's health team. We also see ourselves as an extension of your family and care for your pet as we would our own.