The CityU Veterinary Medical Centre (CityU VMC) Oncology Service is a new specialist service for the evaluation and treatment of pets with cancer. Cancer treatment and options for pets, like human patients has been rapidly advancing. New knowledge, discoveries and drugs have become available and continue to improve the life span and quality of life of our pet patients.
Treatment of cancer depends on many variables including the specific type/subtype of tumor, biological behavior, location and distribution within the body. An oncology specialist can outline the best treatment approaches based on the current scientific knowledge. Oncologists also work alongside surgeons and internal medicine specialists to offer the most successful tailored designed treatment plan. A multimodal treatment approach is often indicated for some types of aggressive cancers.
Chemotherapy is the most common, but not the only treatment modality used by veterinary oncologists to treat cancer. It is a common perception that all chemotherapy treatment is associated with some degree of sufferance due to side effects seen in people. People often experience severe side effects because they are administered a high dose chemotherapy plan. However, these severe side effects are not seen in dogs and cats as chemotherapy is used at a lower dose compared to protocols used in people. The main aim in chemotherapy in pets is to improve the quality of life while increasing the life span of the patient (cure is very rarely achieved only with chemotherapy). Paramount of veterinary oncology is to improve quality of life!
Our services include:
- Evaluation and review of suspected or confirmed case of neoplasia.
- Accurate diagnosis of different cancer types and subtypes.
- Detailed staging (extension of the cancer within the body).
- Tailored treatment designed for individual patients (every single patient is different, even when developing treatment plans for pets with the same type of cancer)
- Multi-disciplinary assessment of the patient in collaboration with specialist surgeons and internal medicine specialists.
- Treatment modalities include systemic/local chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, electrochemotherapy, alternative treatments.
What to Expect
Upon arriving at the CityU VMC, you will be seen by one of our vet assistants that will ask you some information regarding your pet. The oncologists will often ask you other questions to gather more information, when necessary. After reviewing the case and examining the patient, the oncologist will discuss with you the finding and suggest if any further investigations/tests are needed. All the most up to date treatment options will be discussed in detail.
Remember that tests and procedures sometimes need to be repeated to have a final diagnosis or to have more detailed information on the specific case.
What should I bring to my oncology consultation?
Please bring your pet's current medications (with clear dosage labels) even if alternative medicines/Chinese medicines.
Your vet will need to send all relevant previous history to us, and if any, previous recent laboratory results and/or x-rays / ultrasound / CT scan finding before we can see the patients.
How long will my pet’s appointment take?
The appointment can take 30 minutes to up to 1 hour and it is possible that your pet will stay with us for the day. Usually oncology patients do not require hospitalization, however occasionally this can be indicated.
lymphoma/leukemia (lymphoprolipherative diseases)
A relatively common types of cancer that affect the lymph glands and/or bone marrow/blood, in both dogs and cats. Usually are very aggressive type of cancers, but often respond very well to chemotherapy with great improvement in quality of life and life span. Chemotherapy treatment protocol depend on the specific type and subtypes of lymphoprolipherative diseases and the individual patient performance status/concurrent diseases.
Mast cell tumors
A very common tumor in dogs (less common in cats) mainly found on the skin, but it can affect almost any organs. The biological behavior depends on the grade and various clinical and pathological findings. Despite the best effort, in some cases the biological behavior is somehow unpredictable, and clinical experience in oncology is very important for the treatment plan.
Soft tissue sarcoma
Common tumors often found underneath the skin in dogs and less commonly in cats. Biological behavior depends mainly on the grade. Treatment of choice is often a wide surgical resection. However, this is not always possible due to the location of the mass. Electrochemotherapy after surgery can reduce the chance of reappearance of the tumor in areas where wide surgical resection is not possible (limbs). Less commonly, electrochemotherapy can also be used without surgery (in selected cases where surgery is not possible or not indicated).
Melanoma is a common tumor of the mouth in dogs (in the skin is rarer and often benign). This is a very aggressive form of tumor, but prognosis is largely depending on the staging. Multimodal approach with surgery, immunotherapy, electrochemotherapy are often necessary to increase life expectancy and quality of life.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin
This is a common tumor affecting the sun exposed non-pigmented glabrous areas of the skin in cats. Often seen in the nasal planum, ears, lip and eyelids. It is often locally very aggressive and even if metastases are rare, if untreated will cause severe facial destruction causing pain and discomfort. In early stage of the disease surgery, cryotherapy, photodynamic and brachytherapy can all be used. In more advanced cases, aggressive surgery is the treatment of choice, however this is not always possible or tolerated by the patient. Electrochemotherapy is an alternative or adjunctive treatment to surgery and it is often effective in the control of the disease.
This is a broad term to describe a cancer that arise from the superficial layer of the skin, and internal organs (mouth, nose, intestine, stomach, renal, bladder, anal sac etc..). The biological behavior and treatment are largely dependent on the subtype of tumor, the organ of origin/ location and extension through the body.
As in people, our pets can suffer of these and many other types of cancers (es. histiocytic sarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, liposarcoma, plasma cell tumors, endocrine tumors, odontogenic tumors etc.). It is important to remember that cancer is NOT a diagnosis as it does not give any information regarding prognosis and treatment (some cancer can be cured; some can be successfully treated, and some unfortunately are not). Prognosis and treatment largely depend on the specific cancer types and many other specific information that need to be collected before a tailored therapeutic plan can be established.
- Radiotherapy is a very effective treatment option for many types of cancer in pets, however this has not been mentioned as it is not available in Hong Kong yet.