Cancer: Frequently Asked Questions
Q: My local veterinarian said that my dog/cat has cancer. Now what?
A: Ask what it will take to find out for sure, and are they able to do it?
Q: When should I get a second opinion?
A: If your primary vet is not able to do the tests that would determine if your pet has cancer, or if you want to know more about the possible cancer, before your pet undergoes more tests.
Q: What should I bring with me to that first appointment with my oncologist?
A: Any information, clinical history, imaging and test results, obtained by your primary vet, which may be relevant to the specific problem. It is also advisable to bring a list of questions you may want answered.
Q: What can I expect at a first appointment with an oncologist?
A: A general overview of the approach to the treatment of cancer in animals, and then some specific information about the tumor type you are dealing with. This should include any further diagnostic tests required, the treatment options, costs, and the expected outcomes.
Q: Will the veterinary oncologist communicate with my local veterinarian?
A: Yes! It is standard practice for all Specialists to communicate with your primary vet, and send all reports of the consult and tests done.
Q: What should I ask the oncologist when I see him/her?
A: Once the Oncologist has given you a general overview of an appropriate medical approach to your pet’s disease, you should express your feelings and concerns about your pet and the disease. Decisions should be patient directed and not disease directed. What is best for the cancer is not always best for your pet.
Q: What does an oncologist do that my own local vet can’t do?
A: An Oncologist has extensive Residency training in the diagnosis and treatment options for different cancers. They are up to date with the latest reports and studies, and are usually associated with a specialty clinic that can do more advanced diagnostics, imaging and therapeutics than most general practitioners.
Q: Are there resources available to help me pay for treatment?
A: Yes! There are companies that provide the ability to pay large sums of money off over an extended period of time, sometimes interest free. There are also many organizations that will help with treatment costs.
Q: What can I expect to pay for an oncology consult? What are typical costs for chemotherapy or other treatment?
A: Initial consults can run anywhere from $100-150; rechecks after that are significantly less. Typical costs for therapy can vary significantly from $100’s/month to $1000’s/month, depending on the disease and treatment selected.
Q: Are there environmental factors that contribute to cancer in dogs/cats?
A: Yes, as there are in humans! However there are a number of factors, including genetics that are involved and required in the genesis, and progression of a cancer.
Q: Do most dogs and cats with cancer end up having surgery?
A: Many do, as, if a surgery is possible, it can significantly reduce the amount of disease, and even cure. However, if a tumor cannot easily be removed, other therapies like medical and radiation therapy may be used instead of, or to prepare for, surgery.
Q: How can I help my pet through cancer related therapy?
A: Pets should be happy, healthy and enjoying life, for the most part, throughout the disease process and treatment, and anything that can support that can be useful. Discuss your thoughts and questions about this with your oncologist, as there may be specific recommendations for specific cancers.
Q: How do dogs/cats typically respond to treatment?
A: They should respond well, and if they don’t, then the treatment should be changed. We never want the treatment to be worse than the disease, so we are much more conservative than they are in people.
Q: How do I find out if there are clinical trials that may be available?
A: There are many ongoing trials, and your Oncologist will probably know about some. Many Universities and veterinary oncology organizations will have web sites that list some of their ongoing trials; some may be appropriate for your pet and some may not be; some are funded, totally or partially, and some may require that your pet be taken to a specific facility.
Q: What organizations exist that actually fund research in veterinary oncology?
A: There are many universities and non-profit organizations that fund and accept donations specifically for research in animal cancer.