MIAMI (Ivanhoe Newswire) — An estimated 6 million dogs and the same number of cats are diagnosed with cancer each year. But there is some encouraging news. Technology to help people with cancer is now helping prolong the lives of our pets.
Shawn Hunsberger was surrounded by her true loves on her wedding day: her groom Denny and her shih tzu mix Brooklyn.
“I just fell in love with him instantly," Shawn said.
Then double heartbreak. She lost her husband to heart complications and soon after Brooklyn got sick.
“They found this massive mass in his heart,” Shawn said.
“Fifty percent of dogs and cats over the age of 10 will be diagnosed with cancer,” said Stephanie Correa, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (Oncology), medical director and the founder of Animal Cancer Care Clinic.
Cancer treatments for people are now helping our pets.
“So we can improve quality of life while still effectively prolonging the life of the patient,” Correa said.
The animal cancer care clinic is using stereotactic radiosurgery technology that pinpoints the tumor sparing healthy tissue.
“Direct the beam of radiation therapy at the tumor from all different angles,” Correa said.
Typical radiation can take up to four weeks, but stereotactic therapy can be delivered over three days.
“Tumors like prostate cancer, brain tumors, lung tumors,” Correa said.
Correa knows what it’s like to have a pet with cancer. Her 12-year-old labrador, Speed, had a brain tumor.
“Fifty percent of dogs and cats over the age of 10 will be diagnosed with cancer.” — Dr. Stephanie Correa
“We started the stereotactic radiation therapy that day,” Correa said.
After three doses, Speed was back to his playful self.
“It sort of works over time to sort of continually shrink that tumor down," Correa said.
Brooklyn had the same treatment for the tumor on his heart.
“I want him around,” Shawn said, smiling.
Shawn couldn’t save her husband’s life, but she was able to save Brooklyn’s. Months later, the two are still making memories.
Correa says stereotactic radiosurgery is best for localized tumors that have not spread. It can be costly — up to $8,500 for three doses. Pet insurance may cover part of the cost.