Maggie Faces Osteosarcoma – Part 2
Once 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.
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