Chemotherapy is a valuable form of treatment for many types of cancer in dogs and cats. For certain cancers, such as lymphoma, chemotherapy is used alone with the goal of achieving remission. Chemotherapy is also often used following surgery or radiation therapy to delay or prevent metastasis (the development of secondary malignant growths at a distance from a primary site of cancer). In some cases, chemotherapy is used to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. Our goal during cancer treatment is to improve the health and quality of life for our patients. We never want the treatment to be worse than the disease
Cancer is defined as the uncontrolled growth of cells. Traditional chemotherapy medications interfere with the growth of cells by blocking various stages of cell division. Some chemotherapy approaches involve preventing the development of new blood vessels that would feed the tumor or blocking growth factors.
Different chemotherapy drugs have different targets, and in many cases, a combination of drugs is the most effective way to kill cancer cells. Since chemotherapy can affect all dividing cells in the body, healthy cells with high growth rates can also be affected. Cells in the bone marrow, lining of the gastrointestinal tract and hair follicles have high growth rates and can therefore be affected by chemotherapy. Therefore, side effects can occur in those tissues, but normal cells are typically better able to recover and repair themselves than cancer cells.