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Veterinary Teaching Hospital

Frequently Asked Questions | Radiation Oncology

What is the Radiation Treatment Planning System?

A state-of-the-art computerized radiation treatment planning system that incorporates CT and MRI imaging of the patient allows the radiation oncologists to customize the radiation treatment for each animal. This ensures optimal and effective radiation delivery to the tumor while minimizing side effects.

What are the standard types of radiation therapy?
  • Definitive or curative-intent therapy: The objective is to sterilize as many cancer cells as possible. Definitive radiotherapy is commonly performed after a surgery that has removed the visible portions of the tumor. Some tumor types, such as intra-nasal and brain tumors, may be irradiated without prior surgery. Treatments are performed once a day for two to four weeks with the weekends free of treatment. Pets may board at the hospital or come in daily on an outpatient basis for the duration of treatment.
  • Palliative therapy: The goal of treatment is to reduce pain or discomfort and/or to improve local function of an area affected by a tumor. This approach is used most commonly for tumors that are not curable with definitive therapy, or where a less-intensive treatment option is preferred. Treatments are scheduled once a week for three to four weeks, or once daily for five days in some cases.

What is involved with getting my pet ready for radiation therapy?

Prior to beginning radiation therapy, various diagnostic tests may be recommended in order to most accurately and safely plan the course of radiation treatments. These tests may include blood work, urine analysis, tumor imaging using CT scan or MRI, imaging of other body parts to evaluate the possibility of spread of the cancer, and tissue sampling.

What is involved in anesthetizing my pet for treatment?

Since radiation patients must lie perfectly still during the radiation delivery, all patients must be anesthetized for each treatment. Time under anesthesia is usually around 30 min. and most patients return to their normal daily activities soon after treatment. Anesthetic protocols used for radiotherapy include fast acting anesthetics, and are customized for each patient.

What type of tumors are best treated with radiation therapy?

Common tumors treated with radiation therapy include, but are not limited to, intra-nasal tumors, brain and spinal tumors, oral tumors, mast cell tumors, skin tumors, soft tissue tumors, bone tumors, anal sac tumors, injection site tumors, and thyroid tumors. The strontium-90 ophthalmic probe allows for irradiation of superficial tumors of the eye or skin in one treatment session.

What are the side effects of radiation therapy?

Side effects secondary to radiation therapy may occur in some patients, most commonly when daily radiation protocols are used. Specific side effects will be discussed prior to starting any treatments. Most side effects appear as sunburn-like changes which begin about half way through the protocol and resolve within 1 to 2 weeks after the treatments are complete. The likelihood that radiation side effects will develop depends on the tumor type, the location of the tumor and the type of radiation protocol used. The radiation therapy team can provide medications to help with side effects in order to keep the patient as comfortable as possible.

What happens after radiation therapy?

Follow-up visits are made with the oncology service to monitor the progression and healing of side effects, and to evaluate the status of the cancer. Visits are generally recommended 2 to 4 weeks after the radiation protocol is completed, and then every 1 to 3 months for the first year to 1.5 years.

Who will be caring for my pet during radiation therapy?

Our radiation team includes a veterinary radiation oncologist and two registered veterinary technicians with specialized training in radiation therapy. We work directly with the medical oncology and surgical teams to provide thoughtful, comprehensive cancer therapy for your pet.

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