A diagnosis of cancer in pets is increasingly common as our companion animals live longer due to a lifetime of excellent care. Although cancer can occur in pets of any age, there is an increasing risk of most cancers with age. Pet owners should be vigilant about looking for clinical signs that could be related to cancer, such as non-healing wounds, lumps or bumps on the skin or in the mouth, and lameness. It is the task of veterinarians to examine and investigate the underlying cause of such abnormalities. A diagnosis of cancer may come from a blood test, x-rays, or needle aspirates of lesions. Once a pet is diagnosed or suspected of having cancer, a veterinary oncologist is the health professional best trained to further stage and recommend treatments for your pet’s disease.
Typically, cancers may be treated with combinations of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and sometimes immunotherapy. In the past, radiation therapy was commonly used to treat cancers that were non-resectable by surgeons or for tumors that were incompletely removed at surgery. Although radiation is still used in this way today, the advent of many new technologies that we now have available at NC State now allows us to consider radiation therapy for cancers that were previously thought to be untreatable, such as large liver tumors or metastatic brain tumors.
We are fortunate to have cutting-edge technology available in the form of a Varian Novalis TX linear accelerator with a Protura six-degrees-of-freedom treatment couch. This allows us to deliver radiation treatments with extreme precision, which results in decreased normal tissue side effects and the ability to increase the radiation dose to the tumor, hopefully improving tumor control. We can deliver radiation via photons or electrons, using both traditional (electron beam and clinical photon radiation plans) and cutting-edge radiation treatment plans (stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT) and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)).
Cancer can affect any part of the body. This list of cancer types are those that are most commonly treated with radiation therapy. Click each title to learn more:
Does my pet have bladder or prostate cancer?
- Common symptoms include pain or abnormal posturing during urination, poor urine stream, and/or discolored or bloody urine.
- Diagnosis of bladder and prostate cancer can be challenging, and may involve a variety of tests, including X-rays, abdominal ultrasound, urinalysis, cytology, biopsy with histopathology, and sometimes even surgery.
- Almost all bladder tumors in dogs are a type of cancer called “transitional cell carcinoma” (TCC). These tumors grow from the lining of the bladder and/or urethra, and can spread throughout the lower urinary tract.
Does my pet have bone cancer (Osteosarcoma)?
- Osteosarcoma most commonly occurs on the limbs of large breed dogs. But it can occur in any breed, in any location of the body, and at any age.
- Common symptoms include pain, lameness (limping) and swelling.
- The diagnosis is often made with X-rays. Sometimes, blood testing, fine needle aspirates and/or biopsies will be used to help confirm the diagnosis, or rule-out diseases that cause similar symptoms.
What is the prognosis?
- Osteosarcoma is rarely curable. Even if the visible tumor can be effectively treated, this kind of cancer has a high probability of spreading to other parts of the body.
- Without treatment, bone cancer in dogs is rarely survive more than a month or two. Most dogs are euthanized due to intractable pain or limb fracture.
Does my pet have a brain tumor?
- Brain tumors commonly cause behavioral changes, gait abnormalities and/or seizures. Some types can cause facial muscles to shrink (trigeminal nerve sheath tumors), while others can cause hormonal imbalance (pituitary tumors).
- The diagnosis is often made with an MRI; other tests (CSF taps, biopsies and blood testing) may also be used.
What is the prognosis?
- Brain tumors are rarely curable. Without treatment, pets rarely survive more than a few months.
- In most cases, the best prognosis is associated with surgery, radiation therapy (RT), or a combination of both. Learn more about Brain Tumors here
Does my pet have nasal cancer?
- Nasal cancer is a common cause of nasal discharge, bleeding, excessive sneezing, and several other symptoms in middle-aged to older dogs, and occasionally in cats.
- The diagnosis is often confirmed using a series of tests, including a CT scan (also called a CAT scan), rhinoscopy and biopsy.
What is the prognosis?
- Nasal tumors are rarely curable. Without treatment, pets rarely survive more than a couple of months.
Service features include:
- Two American College of Veterinary Radiology, Specialty of Radiation Oncology board-certified Radiation Oncologists
- State-of-the-art 3-dimensional treatment planning system (Varian Eclipse)
- Varian On-Board Imaging (OBI) device that allows daily imaging prior to radiation delivery for precise patient positioning
- In-house boarding for patients
- Varian Novalis TX Linear Accelerator with Stereotactic Radiation Therapy (SRT) and Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) capabilities
- Appointments & Referrals
- Meet our Faculty & Staff
- Radiation Oncology FAQ's
- The North Carolina Animal Cancer Program
Hours: Monday-Friday, 7:30AM-4:30PM
Facility: The Terry Center
DVM Referral Form: Radiation Oncology Referral Form
The Radiation Oncology service is a referral-only service. Once the primary (referring) veterinarian calls and sets up the referral, the owner may call and arrange an appointment. If your veterinarian has confirmed the diagnosis of cancer in your pet, have he or she call our hospital and discuss your pet’s case with the Radiation Oncologist. In some tumor locations, especially for suspected brain tumors, a biopsy diagnosis is not required for consideration of radiation therapy.
At the time of your appointment, the radiation oncologists will discuss the additional tests that are recommended or required prior to radiation treatment, the options and expected outcomes for radiation therapy, and the costs and potential side effects associated with treatment.
Cost Estimates for Radiation Therapy
- Palliative radiation therapy (typically 1-6 treatments): $1000-3000
- Half-body radiation therapy (for lymphoma): $1000 per half
- Definitive course of radiation therapy (if no CT scan required; typically 15-19 daily treatments): $4000
- Course of radiation therapy delivered with intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) (typically 18-20 daily treatments): $5500-6000
- Course of stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT) (typically 1-3 treatments delivered over 1-5 weekdays): $4000-5000
We are committed to providing outstanding care for referring/primary care veterinarians and their clients. The Radiation Oncology service consists of two board-certified radiation oncologists, Dr. Mike Nolan and Dr. Tracy Gieger, a resident, Dr. Matt Arkans, a dedicated patient care nurse, and two radiation therapists. We interact on a daily basis with other services in the hospital, including medical oncology, diagnostic imaging, and anesthesia.
The Radiation Oncology Section at NC State strives to
- Provide clients and patients with the most thoughtful and thorough care possible by facilitating a multi-disciplinary approach to cancer management, and by offering treatments that maximize accessibility, effectiveness and efficiency.
- Advance knowledge by serving as an educational resource for basic and cutting-edge therapeutic interventions in veterinary radiation oncology.
- Develop and maintain an international reputation as leaders in veterinary and comparative radiation oncology, by discovering ways to improve the safety and efficacy of treatments for a variety of cancers and chronic inflammatory diseases.
Contributions to this fund support students, staff, and residents within the Radiation Oncology group. These resources are vital to research, training, education and outreach. Your gift helps us fulfill our mission. Contact Allison Crouch, Development and Client Relations at 919-513-6427 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how you can help!
The primary functions of the NCACP are:
- To provide a comprehensive treatment center for privately-owned pet animals with cancer
- To provide instruction in clinical and investigative oncology to professional students in the College of Veterinary Medicine
- To provide residency programs in medical and radiation oncology for graduate veterinarians
- To provide graduate study in fields relating to cancer biology and/or treatment
- To conduct high quality research in cancer-related fields
The NCACP has a long and productive history of studying tumor biology and new methods of cancer treatment. Through this effort, we hope that information will be provided that will be useful to veterinarians treating animal cancer and to physicians treating cancer in people. Ongoing research in the NCACP involves:
- Study of tumor heating (hyperthermia) as a cancer treatment method
- Targeted drug delivery via gene therapy and liposources
- Cytogenetic abnormalities and abnormalities in protein expression of tumors
- Development of targeted radiotherapy
Liaison with Duke University Medical Center
There has been fruitful collaboration with investigators at Duke University Medical Center since the inception of the North Carolina Animal Cancer Program in 1984. Drs. Mark Dewhirst and Jeannie Poulson, both veterinarians, and faculty members in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Duke University Medical Center, are intimately involved with investigations of new cancer therapy and studies of cancer biology in pets with cancer. Drs. Dewhirst and Poulson also hold Adjunct Faculty appointments in the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University. Also, some faculty from North Carolina State University hold adjunct faculty appointments at Duke University Medical Center and are also members of the Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Collaboration with Duke University Medical Center allows the latest in scientific discovery to be brought to the North Carolina Animal Cancer Program.