Chemotherapy: common myths debunked

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: Many clients are very unnerved when the prospect of chemotherapy for their cat is discussed, fearing that their pet will endure the level of adverse effects (AEs) that many human chemotherapy patients do. While this preconception is perfectly understandable, it is a highly inaccurate. The majority of cats receiving chemotherapy either experience no AEs, or mild, self-limiting AEs. This difference arises from compassionate dosing of our feline friends. Since most of the AEs of chemotherapy are dose-dependent, rather than idiosyncratic, it is perfectly possible to control the risk by altering the doses of chemotherapy the cat receives. Although this approach also compromises cancer control, it still produces an acceptable outcome since cats have a much shorter life-expectancy than people; a remission of 2-3 years is often very acceptable for a cat whereas a cancer-free interval of decades (at least) would be the goal for people. This lecture discusses avoiding and managing some of the common chemotherapy-associated AEs in cats, giving tips on how best to educate cat owners that chemotherapy is a safe and ethical treatment for their feline companion.

: Chemotherapy is becoming more widely available and advocated as a treatment for many neoplastic conditions and is a generally well tolerated treatment which affords excellent quality of life in most patients. Some clients, however, are reluctant to pursue chemotherapy treatment for their dog due to concerns related to possible toxicity, often extrapolated from human medicine. This presentation outlines the risks, possible side effects and approximate frequency with which these are reported with the cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs commonly used in canine patients. The session discusses toxicities associated to vinka alkaloids, anthracyclines and alkylating agents commonly used in the treatment of canine neoplasia, and give practical tips on how to avoid these, and to manage them should they occur. The aim is to demonstrate that quality of life in veterinary oncology patients is paramount and to give practitioners the tools to recommend chemotherapy with confidence and to discuss the risk of chemotherapy toxicities in canine patients with clients.

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