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Radiation therapy is a local treatment option for many types of cancer. It plays a crucial role in the treatment of over 50% of human cancer patients. We are extremely fortunate to be able to provide this high level of care to our patients at VCA Capital Area Veterinary Specialists.

For our purposes, the term radiation simply implies the transmission of packets or photons of energy through the air and into the body, much like x-rays. These photons cannot be seen or felt, nor are they radioactive. The photons pass through the body causing damage to the genetic material inside the cells being treated. This damage can lead to cell death within hours to weeks after the treatment is given.

Radiation therapy is administered in multiple treatments known as fractions. Each treatment is a 'fraction' of the total dose prescribed for a particular patient. Fractionation reduces the severity of side effects to normal cells, enhances the killing effect on cancer cells, and allows a higher total dose to be given. The dose prescription and fractionation protocol are not arbitrary. They are based on sound radiobiological principles and must be strictly adhered to in order to achieve the goals of therapy. This includes making sure your pet does not miss any treatments and completes the scheduled number of fractions.

Specifically the number of fractions will vary from 1 to 25 depending on the cancer, area being treated and treatment related goals. For each fraction patients will need to be placed under general anesthesia as they must remain motionless for correct tumor targeting. However the duration of anesthesia is only several minutes and because the act of radiation is painless, long acting pain medication is not required.

Radiation treatment protocols can be divided into two broad categories, definitive and palliative. The goal of definitive radiation is to deliver as much radiation as safely possible to achieve a maximum tumor cell kill. Palliative radiation, on the other hand is a much more conservative approach to radiation therapy where the goal is not necessarily to kill tumors cells but rather improve a pets quality of life. Depending on the location of the tumor and treatment goals, side effects from radiation therapy can occur. In general they are limited to the area that is being treated and range from very minimal to severe. Your veterinarian can treat your pet for side effects that may occur.

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VCA Capital Area Veterinary Specialists is proud to offer excellent care with the following oncologic services:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Cryotherapy
  • Melanoma Vaccine
  • Foreign Body Retrieval
  • P.E.G. Tube Placement

What Is A Veterinary Oncologist?

A board certified veterinary oncologist is a veterinary internal medicine specialist who has also obtained additional training in veterinary oncology. A veterinary oncologist has specialized knowledge in the diagnosis of cancer, the staging of tumors, the development of treatment plans, and the administration of chemotherapy. When your pet is faced with cancer, a veterinary oncologist will typically work in concert with your pet's general practitioner veterinarian in order to obtain the best possible medical outcome for your pet. A veterinary oncologist can help your pet by developing treatment plans that incorporate one or all of the following options:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy

While your general practitioner veterinarian can diagnose and treat many health problems, certain diseases like cancer require the care of a doctor who has had specialized, intensive training in veterinary oncology.

Why Does My Pet Need A Veterinary Oncologist?

Just as in humans, a pet with cancer typically needs the help of an oncologist to help diagnose and treat the disease. Veterinary oncologists determine the most appropriate course of treatment and coordinate the treatment program for pets with cancer. They also frequently serve as consultants to veterinarians in private practice to ensure that their patients receive the best treatment possible for their cancer. You can be assured that a veterinarian who refers you and your pet to a veterinary oncologist is one that is caring and committed to ensuring that your pet receives the highest standard of medical care for his or her illness.

While in some cases, your veterinarian may be able to simply consult with the veterinary oncologist about your pet's care, in other cases it is necessary to actually refer you and your pet to the veterinary oncologist for more advanced diagnostics and treatment. Board certified veterinary internists/oncologists may also have access to specialized diagnostic or treatment tools that a general practitioner veterinarian may not have.

My Pet Has Cancer. Now What?

Cancer does appear to be becoming more common in pets, most likely because they are simply living longer. The most important point to realize about this dreaded disease, however, is that just as in people, many forms of the disease can be easily treated, managed, and even cured. Early detection and specialized care are leading to increased survival and cure rates in almost all the types of cancers that afflict pets. From surgery to chemotherapy to radiation therapy, veterinary cancer specialists can offer your pet the very latest diagnostic and treatment options and the best chance of survival. With optimal treatment, cancer in many cases simply becomes another manageable chronic disease.

If your pet is diagnosed with cancer, it is important not to become overwhelmed. Ask your veterinarian to write down the most important points for you to review later. Although the disease is serious, treatment decisions generally do not need to be made quickly. If your pet is diagnosed with cancer, however, you will either want to have your general practice veterinarian work in consultation with a veterinary oncologist, or be referred to one of these specialists for your pet's treatment.

  • Common cancers
  • Skin tumors
  • Mammary tumors
  • Lymphosarcoma
  • Endocrine tumors
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Hemangiosarcoma

Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved?

In most cases, your regular veterinarian will still supervise your pet's veterinary care and will work in tandem with the veterinary oncologist, veterinary radiation oncologist, and any other members of your pet's veterinary health care team.

Did You Know?

Dogs and cats have higher age adjusted incidence rates for many kinds of cancers than do humans. For example, dogs are 35 times more likely to get skin cancer than are humans. They suffer from 8 times the amount of bone cancer and 4 times the amount of breast cancer. However, humans are more likely to get lung and stomach cancers than pets.

Our Oncology Services

Bone Marrow Aspirate
Cancer Staging
Coagulation analyzer

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