Maggie Faces Osteosarcoma – Part 2

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IMG_1778Once Maggie was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (OSA), our objective was to find comfort for her and to give her as long a life as possible.
The vet ruled out amputation, but suggested a newer procedure called Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS). In order for Maggie to be a candidate for this procedure, the vet wanted to be certain that the cancer had not spread to other organs. The point being there’s no sense in addressing the cancer in her leg, if it has already spread to multiple other organs – the objective then would be palliative care for her.
In order to test her candidacy, Maggie had to undergo a series of tests including:

  • Ultrasound of her abdominal cavity
  • Ultrasound of her leg
  • Aspirate of the tumor in her leg
  • Blood work
  • Chest Xrays

Maggie’s initial ultrasound, chest xrays and blood work were fine – some senior dog related abnormalities, but nothing to prevent us from going forward. The bone aspirate confirmed the diagnosis and she passed all her initial candidacy requirements and we were good to go.
Naturally, we’ve been reading everything we can about the procedure, the protocol, the prognosis and the possible side-effects. Since Maggie will be sedated for the procedure, there is always that risk, but other risks appear to be minimal. She might lose some hair on her leg or it may change color. The radiation may affect some healthy bone and weaken it, opening up the possibility of a fracture, but that is why they administer a bone strengthener along with the first radiation dose.
The SRS treatment begins with a CT Scan of Maggie’s leg so the vet can thoroughly map the tumor in order to program the ‘CyberKnife’ beam directly to the tumor and not the surrounding tissue. It is administered in three doses or fractions, as they are called. There’s no actual surgery or cutting involved, it’s targeted radiation intended to kill the tumor and is considered a curative process rather than palliative (pain relief). The most attractive feature is that results are typically a “significant” reduction in pain and improvement in limb usage. Survival times are equivalent to dogs undergoing amputation, about 12-16 months.
We struggled with this decision as we don’t want to cause Maggie any more stress or pain. Should we just treat her with palliative care or should we undergo this SRS? The fact is that the prescribed palliative treatment for OSA is five radiation treatments on five consecutive days. That’s pretty stressful too and the SRS treatment is likely to give her more relief and more time. It was still was a hard decision, but we take each day as it comes and hope for the best for our girl.
Maggie started this morning, with the CT scan. She had to be at the vet’s most of the day, but is home now and resting comfortably. As a matter of fact she had a really good evening. She spent most of it outside lounging in the backyard – her favorite activity. The first radiation dose will be administered on Thursday and then again Monday and Tuesday for three total doses. We will keep you posted.

Additional Reading

Stereotactic Radiation Therapy (SRT) for Treatment of Limb Osteosarcoma
CyberKnife RadioSurgery in Pets
New Cancer Therapy Options for Animals: CyberKnife Radiation
Treatment targets canine cancer
Veterinary Highlights: Stereotactic RadioSurgery For Dogs With Osteosarcoma

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  1. So glad Maggie’s CT scan went well and that she is having a good evening! I’m sending positive thoughts and healing energy out to you guys and Maggie, hoping for the best for all of you. My Callie sends special puppy love to Maggie, from one cancer patient to another. <3
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…What Would Mom Want Me To Do?My Profile

  2. It’s not easy to make a decision, but I hope so much that the SRS therapy works and that you have as much time as possible together. It’s good to hear that we have much more options than we had a couple of years ago… and all our fingers are crossed and POTP is on the way to you and Maggie.
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog MISCHIEF MOANDAY WITH A SMILEMy Profile

  3. It sounds like you made an informed decision on Maggie’s behalf. Missy & Buzz are keeping their paws crossed and wish Maggie all the best (& tasty treats) for Thursday, Monday and Tuesday.
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…August Pet Events ~ Assistance Dogs, Check the Chip Day, National Dog DayMy Profile

  4. So glad you were able to find out about this new protocol for treatment. Sounds like Maggie is a good candidate.

    Hope she and you aren’t finding treatments too stressful. And that she shows fast relief from the pain.
    Pamela recently posted…Why Should Cats Have All The Fun?My Profile

  5. It’s never easy to make decisions when you’re dealing with the stress and heartbreak of a diagnosis like that, but sounds to me like you made a good one. Sending prayers that the treatment goes well and Maggie’s pain is relieved asap.
    Sue recently posted…Adopt Popeye a #Pitbull Dog @WaysideWaifs in #KCMO | TuesdaysTailsMy Profile

  6. Maggie is in our thoughts and we hope it all goes well for her and helps keep her comfortable and happy.
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  7. It sounds like this a perfect treatment for her. I will be sending you all kinds of positive vibes that she goes through it all OK.
    Mary recently posted…A murder of ravensMy Profile

  8. So glad to hear Miss Maggie weathered the first leg (excuse the pun), of her journey to a cure. Treats are in order, Mom…..

  9. Healthcare becomes increasingly ambiguous for seniors, regardless of species. Maggie is lucky to have such caring, thoughtful (and research intensive!) people for her advocates. Here’s hoping the treatment allows Maggie to spend the rest of her days comfortably lounging in peace.

  10. Thank you for sharing this with us. It must be very painful for you to have to relive this experience.

  11. Our thoughts are with you and Maggie!
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  12. I am praying for strength for you and Maggie as she moves forward in her treatment. ♥
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  13. Many crossed fingers, crossed paws, thoughts and prayers that all goes well for Maggie.
    jan recently posted…Light pole nearly kills a man in San Francisco — dogs get blamed.My Profile

  14. It had to be a relief to know that the cancer hadn’t spread yet, and to be able to go forward with this treatment. I know these decisions are never easy, but it sounds to me like you are doing the best thing for Maggie. It’s always been my belief, since we had a dog many years ago with lymphoma, that dogs want to live just as much as we do, as long as they are not suffering. This treatment seems like the least stressful way to go, with the most possible benefit.
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  15. Paws crossed, hope everything continues to go smoothly!
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  16. I am really hoping it helps her. It sounds hopeful.
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  17. Not much out there in terms of palliative treatment that would do much good. I thin this gives her way better chance. Best of luck with the first treatment.
    Jana Rade recently posted…Living with an Incontinent DogMy Profile

  18. I was happy to hear the cancer hasn’t spread and that Maggie could receive the SRS treatment. My heart goes out to you all and I’m sending good thoughts and prayers that Maggie does well with the treatment.
    Elaine recently posted…How Much Sleep Does Your Dog Need?My Profile

  19. Clearly you’ve thought the whole options things out well and it seems like you made a wise choice given her initial response. Sam and I send loving healing thoughts your way and wait for more news.

  20. Hoping for the best possible results for Maggie. Thank you for sharing this difficult journey with us. I wish it were not at Maggie’s expense that I am learning about the Stereotactic Radiosurgery.

    • We’re happy to share – this is such a devastating disease, I”m hopefuly this newer treatment will bring a breakthrough for other folks as well.
      mkob recently posted…What is Strength Training for Dogs?My Profile

  21. We’re all here pulling for Maggie and hope she responds well to treatment.
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  22. That’s great that she got the all-clear for proceding with the treatment. It sounds like an amazing option, and if it can reduce the pain and give her that much more time that will be awesome. Will be looking forward to hearing more reports on how she’s doing and sending good thoughts that they’ll all be positive! I know you’ll make the most of whatever time you have with her.
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  23. Thank you for sharing this procedure with us. I didn’t know about it. Good Luck Maggie!
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  24. We’ve discussed SRT with quite a few oncos, it’s an exciting treatment with a good track record. Where is she getting it done?
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