Canine Radiation Therapy Prognosis

Lili Duda, VMD
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Dear OncoLink "Ask the Experts,"
We are owned by a 4 3/4 year old, Chocolate Labrador retriever. On December 9, 1999, he had a fairly large lump excised from the soft tissue area between his shoulder blades (non-metastisized fibrosarcoma). He recovered admirably from the surgery.

Unfortunately, last week we discovered the lump had returned. The lump was again surgically excised. Our vet at this time has recommended radiation therapy, but unfortunately such treatment is not available in the greater Vancouver, British Columbia area and he has recommended facilities at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington or another clinic in Seattle.

Our question is what would be the normal course of treatment (# of treatments, frequency etc.) and more importantly what would be the general prognosis for complete recovery after such radiation therapy. If possible an estimate of the general expected cost in $US would also be appreciated.  
Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Lili Duda, VMD, Editor of the OncoLink Veterinary Oncology Section, responds:

First, please refer to the information posted on the OncoLink about Radiation Therapy. Most of your questions should be answered here. Specific treatment schedules vary from institution to institution, but typically involve treatments 3 to 5 days a week for a month or more. Similarly, cost varies from institution to institution, but is typically several thousand dollars. Costs for an animal participating in a clinical trial may be much less, but clinical trials are few and far between at this time. Prognosis depends on many factors such as size of the initial tumor, rate of growth of the tumor, appearance under the microscope, and particularly the amount of tumor cells left behind after the surgical excision. Radiation therapy is the treatment of choice for tumors that cannot be completely surgically removed with adequate margins.

If you or your veterinarian have not already done so, please consult a qualified veterinary oncologist to further explore the treatment options for your pet.