Maggie Faces Osteosarcoma Part 1
We’ve had a tough week in the SlimDoggy household. Our Maggie developed a pretty severe limp over the last few weeks. Increasing her medication and rest did not seem to resolve it, so off to the vet we went. The initial diagnosis was not promising – the vet was concerned it was osteosarcoma, but he held out some hope that it might possibly be a fungal infection.
He showed us her xrays and while I’m not a radiologist, I did compare them to osteosarcoma xrays available on the internet and they sure looked pretty similar. We never recommend diagnosing with Dr. Internet, but sometimes it’s useful to get a frame of reference and educate yourself.
After a long weekend of waiting – the fungal tests take 5 days – we got the news today that those test were all negative. We had been hoping for better news, but planned for the worst and had already scheduled an appointment with a veterinary oncologist so we could get a plan together for Maggie and start treating her immediately. And I’m glad we did as the fungal results were all negative.
We increased her pain medications once again since the initial vet visit last week, but it didn’t really seem to be making an impact. She was limping pretty badly on the affected leg – left front – and even though her appetite was still good and she seemed to be in good spirits, osteosarcoma is a painful cancer.
Yesterday we met with the oncologist to discuss options. He had two basic options. He immediately steered us away from amputation, which is the most common treatment for osteo, stating that while we could confirm with an orthopedic surgeon, his opinion was that she was not an optimal candidate due to her age (11) and advanced arthritis in her other limbs. He suggested two other options:
- Stereotactic Radiosurgery or CyberKnife Radiosurgery
- Palliative Radiation therapy
The Stereotactic Radiosurgery is a fairly new procedure. It has been used in humans for many years, but only in the last 5-6 years has it been used in canines. The benefits of the procedure is the special technology which allows the radiation beam to be delivered with submillimeter accuracy targeting only the diseased tissue and not harming any of the surrounding healthy tissue. It utilizes CT Technology and targeted mapping procedures to identify and pinpoint exactly where the radiation beam should be applied. The ‘surgery’ name is a misnomer as there is no surgery, no cutting whatsoever. Our vet, Dr. Jeffrey Lyons, is one of only a very small number of vets performing this procedure in the US. He explained that the survival times for dogs undergoing this treatment vs. amputation are actually quite similar. It is a curative process – designed to kill the cancer.
Palliative Radiation is radiation treatment with the sole purpose of providing pain relief for your dog. It’s delivered in five doses on five consecutive days. It doesn’t address or ‘cure’ the cancer, it only helps to alleviate the pain. When our Becca was diagnosed with osteosarcoma three years ago, we choose the palliative radiation treatment with the addition of chemotherapy. We wrote about Becca’s osteosarcoma experience here.
Given it’s positive outcome, we’ve decided to try the Stereotactic Radiosurgery procedure. Before we can begin, we have to be as certain as possible that the cancer hasn’t spread, so today Maggie is scheduled to undergo a series of tests, including more xrays, blood work, a bone aspirate and and ultrasound. If she “passes” all of those test, she will have a bone scan, and then finally if no evidence of cancer is seen beyond the tumor in her leg, we will start the Stereotactic procedure.
We will be writing more about the procedure and our experience with it as we take this journey with our Maggie. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.