Canines, Cancer and Quacks

When Peedee was diagnosed with cancer, the first thing I did was educate myself as much as I could. There isn’t as much available information wise for cancer in dogs, but I was able to prepare myself a bit on what to expect. Initially, we were told that Peedee either had osteosarcoma or chondrosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is bone cancer, and is very difficult to treat. Chondrosarcoma is cancer of the cartilage, and has a better prognosis than bone cancer. Either one would have required removal of at least two ribs.

We went to the specialists, and they gave us a different diagnosis: a primary lung tumor in the periphery of the lung. Primary lung tumors are are pretty rare in dogs, making up less than 1% of all tumors. The prognosis was actually better than expected, and we had a chance for a cure depending on the actual tumor. No biopsy was taken since regardless of what kind of tumor it was, Peedee needed surgery, which he had last Wednesday.

He did not need his ribs removed, instead his sternum was cracked open, he was put on a ventilator, and then an entire lung lobe was removed. The surgery took about an hour and a half, and went really well. Peedee was not having any symptoms, and his health otherwise was really robust. In fact, Peedee has never been sick. I’m not exaggerating. All our other dogs have gone through a few days where they weren’t feeling good. Rennie, Mags, and Finnick were sick when we adopted them. Peedee, however, has never gotten anything. So, while this is totally unscientific, I felt that Peedee’s robust health gave us a great chance for a good prognosis, no matter what kind of cancer it was.

Yesterday we got the news that the tumor was not an aggressive form of cancer, that it grows really slowly. It did not exhibit the structures related to blood vessels that would cause metastasis. Her words included “the best kind of cancer to get” and “this is good news”. There are, of course, no guarantees in medical science when it comes to cancer. However, when the cancer doctor talks of getting past 18 months in an almost matter of fact way, you just are optimistic. Peedee’s cancer was not an immediate death sentence. We got it out, he will be monitored, and despite losing 20% of his lung, his quality of life will likely be quite good for quite a while.

Peedee was lucky in some respects. He happened to have the blood test that initially raised some alarms when his white blood cell count was high, but not outrageously high. We happen to live in a city that has great veterinary specialists. While I wish we hadn’t become familiar with all these specialists, it’s good to know they are there. Peedee was also lucky that we could afford it. Now, I will try be be as humble as I can here, but, the cost of surgery was not even a concern for us. He was going to have it, and we were going to pay for it. Kansas, where we had the surgery done, is a relatively low cost of living area, and the surgery starts at $3000.00. Not everyone can afford that. I do hope, that by paying for it, we’re helping to lower the cost in the long run for other people, but for now, that best treatment is not available to everyone.

Searching online, I found a lot of natural cures. Turmeric and chinese herbs seem to be popular cures for people to give their dogs and cats. Known woo peddler Mercola even has a dedicated page for natural canine cancer cures. It’s really disheartening to see people given this advice, given false hope that their dogs might be cured. What gets me really angry, though, are the alleged doctors giving this advice. It’s awful. I can’t imagine the pain we would have been in if Peedee had not been able to get surgery, if we couldn’t afford the treatment. Maybe I would be in such pain that I would forked over some money in a desperate attempt to save him. I don’t blame the people obviously, just these vultures taking advantage of heartbroken people. It’s awful.

Science is what saved Peedee, but unfortunately, science costs money. I don’t know what to do about it.

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