Radiotherapy

Approximately 60% of human patients with cancer receive radiation as part of their treatment plan. For veterinary patients radiation is a limited resource, but as in human oncology many veterinary patients would benefit from radiation either as sole treatment or in combination with other treatment modalities such as oncologic surgery and chemotherapy.

Radiotherapy is a local/regional treatment and therefore it is not intended to manage disseminated cancer. Radiotherapy at VRCC is delivered by a linear accelerator (LINAC) that produces very powerful x-rays and is one of the few facilities in Europe where this treatment can be given. Radiation is a course of treatment and the treatment plan is decided upon by the radiation oncologist in consultation with the client. Radiation protocols are roughly divided into two categories, definitive or palliative.

Definitive radiotherapy protocols: The goal of these protocols is long term control or cure by eradicating all tumour cells. Such protocols are usually part of multi-modality treatment involving either surgery and or chemotherapy as part of the treatment plan. These protocols all involve daily treatments when relatively small doses of radiation are given each day. Typical protocols involve from 12 to 20 treatments depending on tumour-type and location. These protocols also reduce the potential for the late effects of radiation and are typically recommended for patients where tumour control for many years is anticipated. Not all patients are suitable for these protocols and in these cases a more palliative approach may be advised.

Palliative radiotherapy protocols: The goal of these protocols is to improve quality of life and reduce pain and discomfort. They may also be beneficial for older patients or patients with concurrent medical problems. Typically they involve fewer treatments with a higher dose of radiation /treatment and in many cases are given on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. This means that long term tumour control may not be achieved when compared to the definitive protocols. However, palliative radiation has a wide application for patients with bulky disease where the goal of treatment is to provide increased quality of life or for patients that are painful e.g. in some cases of osteosarcoma

The radiation oncologist will discuss the benefits and risks of all protocols for each individual patient at the time of consultation.

Many cancers can be treated with radiation and listed here is a small example of tumours that would be considered for radiotherapy:
Mast cell tumours, soft tissue sarcomas, oral tumours, brain and spinal tumours, thyroid carcinomas, histiocytic sarcomas, osteosarcomas, salivary gland carcinomas, metastatic lymph nodes, some presentations of lymphoma, plasmacytomas, prostatic carcinoma...........

The BEST results are obtained when the radiation oncologist is involved in treatment planning from the beginning. Planned treatment gives superior results and this is why we advise early referral to a full service centre.