Medically, cancer is known as malignant neoplasm. However, a growth or a tumor may be benign or malignant. The three properties that differentiate self-limiting benign tumors from malignant cancer are:
- Uncontrolled growth, which is division and multiplication beyond normal limits
- Invasion, which is intrusion and destruction of adjacent cells
- Metastasis, which is spread to other locations in the body through lymph nodes or blood
Cancer is basically a disease of abnormal tissue growth, and with the exception of leukemia, most cancers form tumors. For the disease to spread and develop further in the body, a normal cell must change into a cancer cell. The common course in all cancers is the alteration in the genetic material of a cancerous cell and its progeny.
According to a report published in January 2006 in the National Geographic "there is compelling evidence that cancers hidden beneath the skin can be detected simply by (dogs) examining a person’s breath." While the basis of this news may be debatable until it is conclusively proven, cancer remains a medical condition that is usually detected very late in humans as well as dogs.
Finding an appropriate therapy for dog cancer depends upon different types of canine cancers. For example, squamous cell carcinoma in dogs, the most common type of skin cancer, may have to be treated differently from, say, canine lung cancer.
Conventional cancer treatment in dogs usually involves surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. These can be performed as standalone treatments or in conjunction with one another. Conventional therapies are more focused on eliminating cancer by anti-cancer medication and procedures and they do not address the underlying cause. A new field of treatment that targets the immune system and enables it to fight cancer from within is fast emerging and is under active research.
Cancer immunotherapy refers to a variety of therapeutic strategies to make a cancer patient’s immune system strong enough to fight cancer. It has made some inroads in fighting human cancer also. Home care and alternative therapies like homeopathy, herbal and natural medicine can play an important role in giving effective support to the dog’s own ability to fight cancer, as well.