Reducing Canine Cancer With Hyperthermia

There are a number of treatments for canine cancer. Some are more successful than others dependingon the type of cancer involved since cancer takes on many different forms. For instance, antiangiogenic therapy stops new blood vessels in a dog's tumor from growing, whereas chemotherapy (using anti-cancer drugs) is effective in treating bone cancer in a dog and cryosurgery (freezing the cancer cells) is effective in treating oral cancer in a dog. Hyperthermia, a relatively new form of treatment is in experimental and clinical stages presently.

Hyperthermia Heats the Cancer

Hyperthermia uses radio frequencies, ultrasound, infrared radiation or microwave radiation to heat tumors, requiring specialized equipment. Because of this, few veterinarians have the equipment or experience in administering this form of treatment; however, some clinics or school hospitals do.

Though not completely understood why or how this treatment works, heat exposure does cause conformational changes to proteins within cells. In doing so, a cell's ability to function is altered. It is believed that this process kills the cells and stops the spread of the cancer. However, since not all of the cancer is killed off and some cells can actually become heat resistant and pass this ability onto the subsequent multiplying cells, radiation or chemotherapy is used to finish the job.

Hyperthermia increases the oxygen flow in the cells. Since dog's tumors have more blood vessels, they are susceptible to heat and become more sensitive to radiation or chemotherapy, which usually follows treatment, thereby increasing survival rates. Growths within soft tissues of the body less than one centimeter are great candidates for this procedure. However, this process damages both healthy and cancerous cells. Heat probes are inserted into the tumor to administer heat. However, this method distributes the heat unevenly so MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is used for a more uniformed distribution of heat.

Cancer Symptoms in Dogs

There are a number of cancer symptoms. The following includes a list of the more common ones, but is not inclusive of every symptom.

  • Abnormal swellings or lumps that persist or continue to grow
  • Difficulty eating, swallowing or breathing
  • Lethargy or listlessness
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sores that do not heal, skin lesions or reoccurring infections
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Seizures
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness
  • Localized Pain
  • Hesitance to exercise or loss of stamina
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating
  • Offensive odor
  • Bleeding or discharge from any body opening

Hyperthermia is most effective when combined with radiation and/or chemotherapy. Consultation with the veterinarian will determine all possible forms of treatment available.