What is Cancer?

AboutCancer008Cancer is the unrestrained and unregulated growth of cells that occurs despite the body's anticancer defense mechanisms or immune system. Cancer begins with a single cell that fails to respond to growth signals from the rest of the body. This cell can begin to grow for weeks, months or even years before being detected.

What Causes Cancer?

There are several potential causes for cancer, including tobacco smoke, certain nutrients, radiation, drugs, toxins, viruses, inflammation, pollution, chemicals or any other substance that can damage DNA. In the majority of animal cancers, it is often difficult to pinpoint a specific cause for the development of cancer.   Some cancers are more common than others. Lymphoma (click to download description of Lymphoma) in both dogs and cats is the most commonly treated cancer. In dogs, cutaneous Mast Cell (click to download description of Mast Cell Tumors) cancer is the most common skin tumor that we see.

What is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy drugs are compounds that are toxic to cancer cells. Cancer cells generally multiply very rapidly. Most chemotherapy drugs work by damaging the ability of these rapidly growing cells to divide, eventually killing them. There are many different types of chemotherapy, including intravenously by injection or orally administered drugs. Some are given in the clinic intermittently and some are given at home on a long-term, continuous basis. A newer form of chemotherapy is targeted therapy. These are drugs that are generally given orally and block specific growth receptors on the tumor cells to inhibit their growth. Different chemotherapy drugs and protocols have different effectiveness again specific tumor types, and are recommended based on this known or suspected efficacy.

What is Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is using the body’s own immune system or natural defenses against cancer cells. This is generally done by encouraging the body to make antibodies against the tumor cells (vaccine therapy) or by giving the antibodies directly (monoclonal antibody therapy). Immunotherapy can be used as the sole treatment, or may be combined with chemotherapy or radiation.

What is Radiation Therapy?

AboutCancer026Radiation therapy is the collective use of x-rays for treatment purposes.  The most common way of delivering these x-rays is by using a linear accelerator (LINAC).  A LINAC works by using microwave technology to accelerate electrons which collide with a heavy metal target.  As a result of these collisions, high-energy x-rays are scattered from the target.  A portion of these x-rays are collected and then shaped to form a beam that matches the patient’s tumor, which is based on a radiation oncologist prescribed treatment plan.

What is a Clinical Trial?

As a pet owner, participating in a clinical trial provides you with an opportunity to help your pet when conventional treatment options are either not effective or not accessible. Most clinical research trials investigating new methods of cancer diagnosis or treatment are conducted at either universities or specialized cancer treatment facilities. Although considered “experimental”, effectiveness of the treatment has been proven in lab research, safety has been demonstrated in closely monitored studies, and the therapy is considered to be of potential benefit to the patient.  Ask your Animal Cancer Care Clinic oncologist if your pet is a candidate for any of the ongoing clinical trials.

Helpful Links

We've found these animal care websites to be helpful resources for many of our patients and their owners.

Information on these websites does not necessarily reflect the operations of Animal Cancer Care Clinic.

VCS logo Veterinary Cancer Society
ACVIM logo American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
ChaseAwayK9CancerLogo Chase Away K9 Cancer
ACVMF American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Foundation
VetSpecialistsReg VetSpecialists.com