Receiving the diagnosis of cancer can be a very emotional and stressful time. It's very important to gather as much information as possible to be able to decide on an effective treatment plan. The more you know about your dogs condition the better equipped you will be. Some Veterinarian offices offer chemotherapy but they are not cancer specialists(oncologists). It's advisable to seek the expert opinion of an oncologist whenever possible. I can't stress enough the importance of asking questions and getting the information you need. If your vet or oncologist is unwilling or unable to provide you this information got elsewhere, that's the bottom line.
If the veterinary oncologist is recommending chemotherapy:
- What type of cancer does the dog have?
a) Was this confirmed by a biopsy? If No, how was the type of cancer confirmed?
- If this cancer IS categorized by stages:
a) Explain the definition of the stage and how it differs from the other possible stages.
- If this cancer is NOT categorized by stages:
a)Is the cancer localized or has it spread?
- If localized, is this type of cancer likely to spread?
a) If likely to spread, how fast will this typically happen?
b) If it has already spread, how did the veterinarian oncologist determine this (i.e., what tests were done to show this)?
c) What organs have already been affected?
- If the cancer is localized at the moment, what is the typical progression of this type of cancer (i.e., what organs does it attack)?
- If no treatment is given, what kind of time does the dog have?
- Is there treatment available for this type of cancer?
- If Yes, explain ALL types of treatment available (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, Tall-104, Photodynamic therapy or others).
- What side effects or risks are associated with each treatment option?
- Which treatment does the veterinarian oncologist recommend?
a) Have the veterinarian oncologist explain WHY this treatment or\par combination of treatments is better for your dog than the others.
b) Tell the oncologist you want to see studies that support his viewpoint with statistical data. (If they are not handy, tell him/her to get them for you.)
c) If he/she has no supporting studies, ask upon what are they he is\par basing their recommendation?
- What is the charge for the treatment?
- Is a payment plan available?
- Which drug or combination of drugs does the oncologist recommend and WHY is this protocol better for my the dog's cancer than the other available chemotherapy combinations?
- What are the possible side effects?
- What can be done to limit or eliminate side effects from the chemotherapy?
- How many treatments are usually planned?
- Will treatments be stopped as soon as remission is achieved?
a) If Not - - why not?
- What is the average remission time using this protocol?
a) Does the veterinarian oncologist have statistical studies that show this is the case you can see that show average remission times using the various protocols?
b) If no studies are available, where is the veterinarian oncologist getting the information on longevity?
- If the dog does not respond to the protocol being suggested, what is the back-up plan for treating the dog?
- What are the signs that the dog has come out of remission?
- When the dog comes out of remission, what can be done?
- What is the average second remission time if chemotherapy is used again?
- Ask the oncologist to recommend a "competent" holistic veterinarian who will work with you to provide a program to enhance the dog's nutrition and suggest alternative methods which might enhance the dogs quality of life.
My own personal note:
I am of the firm belief after dealing with cancer for the past 3 years with Gouda that an ALL inclusive approach is the best way to go. Meaning traditional medicine along with non traditional types such as but not limited to:
The bottom line is don't rely exclusively on traditional medicine. If you can't afford radiation or chemotherapy or perhaps it's just not possible in the case of your dog because of the stage of the cancer, DONT be afraid to try alternative methods. Gouda is a living example of what non traditional treatments can accomplish.
What to Ask Your Vet