Watching, but never waiting

Published 7:20 pm Thursday, November 16, 2017

No one likes to hear the word “cancer.” The disease plagues many families, and if it hasn’t reached one’s family, the chances of at least knowing someone with cancer are very high.

Unfortunately, cancer also affects our furry friends, and that’s why experts have named November as Pet Cancer Awareness Month.

As to be expected, cancer diagnoses and treatments for pets are different from those in humans. Annual tests and doctor visits are not as common for animals, so cancer is likely not to be discovered until it becomes a noticeable lump or begins to affect a pet’s overall well-being.

Pets most commonly experience skin cancer, which can be treated with a primary care veterinarian, but tumors are also common. Tumors may require surgery, radiation or chemotherapy — much the same as with cancer in humans.

There is hope for recovery when an animal is diagnosed with cancer, but treatment options can be more dangerous for a pet and cause more harm than good. Treatment can also become a financial burden.

The lesson here is to pay close attention to a pet’s health, and catch the disease before it spreads. If a dog is experiencing swelling, bleeding or even unexplained weight loss, do not ignore it. If a cat has an unusual bump that wasn’t there before, take it to the vet as soon as possible.

Waiting is not a wise option when it comes to cancer, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Dr. Brandan Wustefeld-Janssen, with Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, summed it up best: “Early intervention is important. If you notice something abnormal, do not wait to show it to your veterinarian; a tumor the size of a grape is a lot easier to treat than one the size of a football.”

Although cancer in humans is different from the disease in pets, the message is similar. Making a pet’s health a priority could help prevent getting to the “football” stage and save a life. After all, we owe it to our four-legged companions.