How are Common Cancers in Dogs Diagnosed?

The success of any cancer treatment is directly related to the stage at which it is detected. There are strong possibilities of cancer in dogs spreading to vital organs making surgical removal an impossible task.

All cancers do not occur as tumors that can be seen on the surface of the body. And therefore these tumors are not too easy to notice and monitor. In many cases, malignant cancer symptoms manifest themselves as symptoms that are related directly to the organ it affects. Symptoms like gastrointestinal bleeding or diarrhea are associated with a tumor in the stomach, small and large intestines or colon. Similarly, cancer in hormone producing organs surfaces in the shape of endocrinal disorders and brain or spinal cord tumors are associated with neurological symptoms.

However there are instances where cancer produces general symptoms that do not point to a specific organ. For example, symptoms of liver cancer in dogs such as loss of appetite, a distended stomach and weakness can be associated with cancer as well as other ailments. Some of the other non specific symptoms include weight loss, low grade fever, muscle weakness, skin rash, hair loss and lethargy.

As such, a wait and watch policy can prove to be extremely dangerous as there is always an accompanying risk of metastasis. Diagnostic procedures like laboratory screening, radiological testing are very helpful in determining existence of a cancer in the body in its early stages. Procedures employed in human oncology are similar to those used to determine prevalence of cancer in pets including feline cancer.

X-Rays are probably the most commonly used technique for radiographic imaging as advanced facilities like CT (Computed Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) are not widely available in veterinary medicine. CT and MRI provide much better results with the ability to render section wise three dimensional images of areas hidden behind tissues.

Ultrasound imaging is commonly used by veterinarians for imaging solid organs and for guiding needles inside the body for drawing out liquid from a tumor for laboratory examination. PET (Positron Emission Tomography) is a recent addition in canine cancer diagnostic procedures.

Prevalence of cancer can also be determined by molecules termed as tumor markers. Cancer cells produce molecules that are different from the ones produced by normal cells. Different tumor markers associated with body organs also provide vital information on prognosis, staging and monitoring.

The next step after diagnosis is to determine the stage at which the disease is. Cancer staging is one of the most important aspects of cancer diagnosis that determines the treatment option that are best to take. Tumor size, invasion of regional lymph nodes and an understanding of the extent of spread of cancerous cell is necessary to evaluate prognosis and clinical management.

Although there are no known definite preventive measures to avoid pet cancer, timely intervention can prove to be of great help. It is highly recommended that you consult your veterinarian as soon as you see any signs of discomfort in your dog. It is the least that you owe to your ‘best friend’.

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