Sadly, in veterinary medicine, just as in human medicine, we have to deal with cases of cancer. Hearing the diagnosis of cancer is horrible whether you are hearing it as a patient yourself or on behalf of your pet. There are many different types and severities of cancer and therefore a huge number of treatment options. Continuous cancer research in humans means that new treatments are always emerging and this is the same in animal medicine.

Surgical removal remains the cornerstone of many cancer treatments and we will frequently operate to remove cancers from pets, but sometimes surgery is not possible or only partially possible and that is where chemotherapy and radiotherapy come into play.

Radiotherapy is the use of high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. Radiotherapy treatment is available for animals but is carried out in specialist centres so often owners have to travel some distance with their pets to get this sort of treatment. Some cancers will respond very well to radiotherapy but others may respond better to chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. Some of these drugs have to be administered by the vet in the veterinary clinic but some can be administered at home. Chemotherapy is often a word that worries people almost as much as cancer itself as we associate it with terrible side effects – but this is not always the case, particularly in animals. Next week I will explain more about chemotherapy, how we use it in animals and why it is not something to be feared in our pets.