James Jacobson: When your dog has a cancer, the words you wanna hear after you go to the treatment process is, “It’s gone, it’s cured, your dog’s in remission”. First of all, how likely are you to hear that and what are the different types of remission? We’ll start with you first Dr. Ettinger in New York.
Dr. Susan Ettinger: So, if you’re with remission usually what the Oncologist is referring to is that there’s no detectable cancer based on the tasks that they’re doing. Whether it is filling the lymph nodes for a lymphoma patient or doing a fine needle aspirate of the lymph nodes or for maybe hemangiosarcomas they did chest X-rays, and an ultrasound and there’s no detectable evidence of those cancer elsewhere in the body then you’ll hear the term remission. I think to once where lymphoma which is one of the more common malignant cancers in dogs that I treat, you’ll hear a sort of levels of remission. Complete remission meaning the cancer is no longer clinically detectable. Partial remission, stable disease, and then the frustrating one to hear is progressive disease that the cancer is on the move or getting bigger or not responding to treatment as we would like it too.
James Jacobson: Dr. Dressler, how often do you get to say that your dog’s cured or we got remission?
Dr. Demian Dressler: I think it depends on the definition of the word cancer, because usually when we think of cancer we think of “systemic malignancies”, and a systemic means that it’s involved in a system or the whole body, it spread, and the malignancy means it’s aggressive, progressive and does not stop dangerous. However, there are growths that our cancerous growths that can actually be cured in veterinary medicine. Those are usually localized. In other words, they can be removed to a surgery. Therefore, with those growths, we do a certain surgery. Usually we do a wide margin meaning we take out a lot of normal tissue, normal appearing tissue around the growth and we can occasionally get actual cures even with true malignancy. So, it is important to remember the type of cancer that we’re talking about and what our expectations are with this particular type of cancer.
James Jacobson: Dr. Ettinger, how often do you see remission with the patients that you treat?
Dr. Susan Ettinger: I think, it really varies with the different types of cancer. Again for lymphoma, the average remission for a dog is over a year. It’s about 13 or 14 months with what I say a good chemotherapy protocol and if you remember that most dogs have a shorter life span sadly than people. That can be a really good extension of their life and they feel really well and live well during that time. So again, we don’t want our pets just to live longer with treatment, we want them to really live well. So, and I think that’s a hard thing for most guardians to sort of wrap their head around when they first come in and then they start listening to statistics and numbers. We all want our pets to live many many many years, but their life span is shorter and you have to compare how long the remission rate is to know treatment, and then put out into perspective to the anticipated length of your dog’s life. So, again, I think remission is variable and it depends on the cancer and again no treatment versus the treatment itself.
James Jacobson: Dr. Ettinger, Dr. Dressler, thank you so much. There’s a lot more information in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. Thanks for joining us.
Dr. Susan Ettinger & Dr. Demian Dressler: Thank you.