What is Cancer?

Our bodies, and those of our pets, are made up of millions of microscopic cells. Over our lifetimes, these cells replicate millions and millions of time, helping grow, repair damage, conduct the normal functions of life and replace aged tissue. Normally, this cell division and replication is carefully controlled by the body, and happens only as needed.

If a cell changes and loses control of this replication it can divide uncontrollably, creating more and more cells. This uncontrolled growth is called Cancer. This loss of control is usually due to an accidental change or mutation in the cell's DNA. In some cases this can be influenced by lifestyle (such as smoking in people), but often it's just a terrible accidental occurrence, with no underlying cause.

Cancer is dangerous because the uncontrolled growth of the cells can damage surrounding tissue, can spread throughout the body, and can drain the body of energy and nutrients.

Cancers vary widely depending on which cells they started from, and on the speed of their replication and growth. Cancers that grow slowly and don't cause significant damage are often called "benign", whereas cancers that grow rapidly, spread throughout the body and cause damage are called "malignant".

How is Cancer Diagnosed?

A veterinarian may suspect cancer if a pet has unexpected weight loss, has swollen lymph nodes (glands), has breathing issues or abdominal enlargement.

The specific signs of cancer vary widely depending on the cancer location and type.

Diagnosis of cancer will often involve:

  • Physical examination by the vet
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays or ultrasound
  • Biopsy (either using a small needle or possibly requiring a surgery)

Having an accurate diagnosis will allow your veterinarian to make a much better assessment about suitable treatments and the overall prognosis.

How is Cancer Treated?

Treatments for cancer depending on the type of cancer, the location, and how dangerous the cancer is.

In some cases, cancers may be completely removed by surgery. Surgery is especially suitable for cancers that could be dangerous, but do not appear to have spread to other organs.

Chemotherapy is also used in some cases, especially with spreading malignant tumours such as lymphoma and leukaemia. Chemotherapy involves the use of strong medication which kills the cancerous cells, and again must be targeted to the specific cancer type. Although chemotherapy does have side effects, these side effects are often much less than people imagine, and successful chemotheraphy can significantly extend and improve a patient's life.

There are also a number of newer treatments for cancers, including immune therapy (such as vaccinations for melanoma) and targeted radiation therapy. As with all treatments, these are only applicable to certain types of tumour, but in some cases can be highly useful.

Lastly, in some cases we may decide that the best course of action is to support a pet, make them comfortable and make them happy, but not try to treat the underlying cancer, if this would lead to the best quality of life.

How can we Support Pets with Cancer?

It's important for a pet with cancer to continue to eat and have high levels of nutrition, especially as tumours often drain the body of normal reserves. A high quality pet diet such as Royal Canin or Hills will significantly help maintain nutrient balance.

I also highly recommend a Ganoderma supplement for most pets with cancer. Ganoderma mushroom is a natural immune booster which can help the body fight the tumour.

Lastly, I recommend a resveratrol supplement such as Resvantage for it's proven anti-aging and cancer inhibition effects.

Please click here for more products for dogs with cancer and cats with cancer.

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