Radiation therapy is a very effective tool for controlling certain types of cancer. It may be used alone or in combination with other forms of treatment such as surgery and chemotherapy. The equipment used to administer radiation treatment is called a linear accelerator. This machine delivers a high-energy beam, in a precisely controlled manner, directly to the tumor while minimizing damage to the surrounding tissues.
If it is determined that radiation therapy will be helpful for your pet, precise positioning of your pet for radiation treatments is determined and documented using CAT scans, radiographs, and digital photography. Once this information is collected, sophisticated computer programming is used to generate a three-dimensional plan for administering radiation to your pet’s tumor. Radiation treatment doses are given in intervals, rather than a single large dose, to allow for repair and survival of the normal tissue surrounding the tumor. For example, a common protocol for tumor control is 16 to 20 treatments over approximately four weeks. Some pets are treated less frequently than every day, depending on the purpose of the treatment. Single doses of radiation might be prescribed to alleviate clinical signs, such as bone pain, associated with certain tumors. Radiation therapy truly has lengthened the lives of many patients with cancer.
Oncology consultations are scheduled at both our Greenville and Asheville locations; however, if your pet needs radiation therapy, it will be scheduled at our Greenville hospital. A full course of radiation therapy can take three to four weeks to complete. Patients living locally can be dropped off each day for treatment. We also have very comfortable boarding facilities for those patients traveling a distance. As treatments are performed Monday through Friday, your pet will be able to go home each weekend.
As careful positioning of your pet for radiation treatment is extremely important, your pet’s hair may need to be shaved in the area to be radiated. Our veterinary patients typically tolerate radiation therapy very well. Side effects seen are usually self-limiting. At the time of consultation, we will discuss the possible side effects associated with your pet’s tumor along with the long-term outlook, so that you can make an educated decision on whether or not to proceed with radiation therapy.