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What Is Cancer and What Causes It

The word cancer is as dark and empty as the disease it defines. A cancer diagnosis often brings feelings of overwhelming fear, a loss of control, and most devastating of all, a loss of hope. This can occur regardless of whether the patient is a friend, family member or a precious pet. When we face the diagnosis of cancer in a beloved pet it is even more difficult, for we must make important and life changing decisions for our animal friends that rely totally on our own judgments for their well-being. These animals not only share our homes, our lives and our experiences, but they also share our hearts. We have experienced their love as unconditional, and we seek through our own decision making process to provide our pets with the highest quality and dignity of life which we know they deserve. Seeking the most appropriate care for these wonderful friends is the very least we can do as a response to their love and affection. Our goal becomes to share as many possible moments within this wonderful relationship.

 

What Causes Cancer?

 

Cancer is the unrestrained growth of cells that occurs despite the body's anticancer defense mechanisms or immune system. Cancer begins with a single cell that fails to respond to orderly growth. This deregulated cancer cell begins to grow undetected months to years before it is ever detected. Cancer is caused by many things, including genetic abnormalities that occur for many reasons such as tobacco smoke, certain nutrients, radiation, drugs, toxins, viruses, inflammation, pollution, chemicals or any other substance that can damage the foundation of life, DNA.

 

Many cancers in veterinary medicine can be prevented by limiting exposure to tobacco smoke, pollutants, chemicals and certain viruses such as the feline leukemia virus. Early spaying and neutering and preventing obesity throughout life are additional ways to prevent cancer, as well as exposure to diets that are likely to prevent cancer. The single most important thing that can be done to enhance the cure rate of cancer once it occurs is early detection and diagnosis. Therefore, presenting your pet to your veterinary health care team is absolutely essential so that cancer can be detected early before it is likely to spread throughout the body.

 

Knowledge is power, and we at the Angel Care Cancer Center gain power over your pet's cancer by understanding what it is, where it is, and how fast it is growing. If your pet has a growth or tumor, your veterinary health care team will first work to determine, "Is it benign or malignant?" Benign growths do not often aggressively spread throughout the body. For example, half of all breast cancers in dogs are benign. Complete surgical excision of the tumor is necessary while leaving it untreated can result in the death of the pet.

 

If the tumor or growth is malignant, your veterinary health care team will first determine, "What is the name and usual behavior of this cancer?" There are hundreds of different types of malignant tumors, all with differing behaviors. Understanding the grade, type and stage of the cancer is very important to begin to develop strategies to defeat it.

 

The GRADE of the cancer is determined after the tumor is surgically removed to determine how fast it grows and how often it spreads throughout the body. The STAGE of the tumor or cancer is determined by common diagnostic tests to determine how big the tumor is and where it is in the body. The HISTOPATHOLOGIC or CYTOLOGIC diagnosis is the determination of the name and type of the cancer. There are ROUND CELL TUMORS, CARCINOMAS and SARCOMAS. For example, within each category, there are different types of tumors. Mammary adenocarcinoma, salivary gland adenocarcinoma and thyroid carcinoma are a few of the dozens of different types of carcinomas. Therefore, the determination of the STAGE, GRADE and HISTOPATHOLOGIC or CYTOLOGIC diagnosis empowers your veterinary health care team with the knowledge of the prognosis and the best way to defeat cancer locally, and if needed, throughout the body.

 

The word cancer is feared throughout the world, yet it is the most curable of all chronic diseases, and it is controllable in many of the patients that are not cured. Understanding this disease empowers you, the caregiver, and the veterinary health care team, with important knowledge about the disease and the options for care. At Angel Care Cancer Center, we believe that all patients can be helped, regardless of the type of cancer.



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