A veterinarian that is a board-certified oncologist has completed extensive training after graduating from veterinary school. This training most often involves a rotating internship to have training amongst many different specialties, potentially a specialized oncology internship, and completion of an approved residency training program specifically focused on oncology (usually 3 years). To become board-certified, the veterinarian must then pass a series of formal examinations and have a research publication in a peer-reviewed veterinary journal. Oncologists are certified through the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) and thus are designated with the acronym ACVIM-O. This specialized and focused training allows the oncologist to be the leading expert on your pet’s cancer and will help you to make the best decisions for your pet.
A referral from your primary care veterinarian is required for a consultation appointment at the Animal Cancer Center of Texas. Once a cancer diagnosis is made or highly suspected, your veterinarian can contact us to provide the referral information and your pet’s medical records, including any diagnostic testing results. Once we receive this information, we will schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified oncologists.
Cancer is very common in our pets. One in four dogs and one in five cats can develop cancer. The most common cancers in dogs are lymphoma, mast cell tumor, hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, melanoma, mammary carcinoma (breast cancer), and transitional cell carcinoma (bladder cancer). In cats, we often see lymphoma, fibrosarcoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Please see our information pages for common cancers here.
The “stage” of the cancer is a determination of the extent of the cancer and can influence the treatment recommendations and impact your pet’s overall prognosis. The number of stages are variable amongst different types of cancers and will be discussed with your consultation. The stage of the cancer can be influenced by the primary tumor size, level of invasion into the nearby tissues, and which organs or tissues the cancer has spread to (metastasis).
Cytology is a diagnostic tool that evaluates cells on a slide visualized through a microscope. The cells are obtained from a small needle inserted into a tumor or organ. This is non-invasive, minimally painful, and often does not require sedation or anesthesia, especially with tumors on or just under the skin. Only a small layer of cells are evaluated to attempt to provide a diagnosis, not tissue. Cytology can be evaluated fairly quickly, either directly in the hospital or submitted for a pathologist interpretation in 1-2 days. It is a useful tool for information, but may not be able to determine cancerous (malignant) versus benign and may not be able to give a 100% clear diagnosis in some cases. A biopsy, known as histopathology, involves evaluation of tissue under the microscope after it has been processed in formalin for a few days. The tissue sample may be obtained with a much larger needle, a small incision in the skin (punch biopsy) with local analgesia, or through a surgical biopsy. This test provides a much higher chance for definitive diagnosis and often provides more information about a cancer (ie. grade), but is slightly more invasive for obtaining the sample and can take 5-10 days for results to be available.