If your dog was recently diagnosed with nasal cancer, you may be wondering what's the life expectancy for dogs with nasal cancer. When it comes to life expectancy, there are many variables and it is often difficult (even for vets specializing in cancer!) to predict how long or how little a dog with cancer may live. This is because there are several factors to consider. Often, some rough pointers can be obtained by looking at some studies. The term median survival time is often used in studies to depict the time at which the percentage surviving is 50 percent(calculated in months or years). There are an abundance of studies on nasal cancer in dogs with data concerning prognosis and life expectancy.
Factors to Keep in Mind
When it comes to life expectancy in dogs with cancer there can be several factors to consider. Just to have an idea, following are several factors to consider.
How locally invasive is the cancer? Nose cancer in dogs tends to spread to surrounding tissues and this can have an impact on overall life expectancy. For instance, if the cancer has spread to the cribiform plate (a part of ethmoid bone), the prognosis is significantly more serious, explains veterinarian Dr. Eli. Also, what signs of dog nose cancer is the dog exhibiting? Dogs who have nose bleeds tend to have a worse prognosis compared to dogs who do not.
Has it spread to other organs? While most nose cancer in dogs tends to be locally invasive, in some cases it can spread to the dog's lymph nodes, brain and lungs.
How old is the dog? And what's the general life span for the dog's breed? Most dogs get nose cancer when they are in their senior years. Dog nose cancer on average appears in dogs who are around 10 years old and this can be right on the edge of the life span for certain large dog breeds. Also, some older dogs may have other medical conditions that can have an impact on prognosis. Treatment options may be limited or too harsh on frail dogs.
What type of dog nose cancer is affecting the dog? There are several different types of dog nasal cancer and these may have different prognosis.
And then there are finances. Dog owners may be willing to pay extra for dog nasal cancer diagnostic tests such as CT scans and biopsies so to catch these tumors early and begin treatment. On the other hand, some dog owners might not able to afford treatment options such as surgery or radiation.
"I struggle with answering owners when they ask me to predict their pet’s survival time. Despite being an expert in veterinary oncology, trying to anticipate how long a patient will live is nearly impossible... Many are disappointed the information cannot be measured in more absolute terms." ~Dr. Joanne Intile
Life Span With/Without Medical Treatment
Medical treatment for dogs with nasal cancer consists of giving medications to provide supportive care. Dogs are often given pain relievers such as tramadol along with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
In particular, piroxicam, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug with anti-cancer properties, may turn useful, however it can cause digestive issues and ulcers. Dog owners embracing natural supplements may use the herb yunnan baiyao to reduce nose bleeds in dogs with nose cancer.
And what about dogs who are given any therapy at all? According to a study, the median survival time of dogs not receiving any therapy or surgical intervention is usually less than 6 months. The presence of a bloody nose seems to have an impact on life expectancy.
"Overall median survival time [in dogs with untreated nasal carcinomas] was 95 days. In dogs with epistaxis [bleeding nose], the hazard of dying was 2.3 times that of dogs that did not have epistaxis. Median survival time of 107 dogs with epistaxis was 88 days and that of 32 dogs without epistaxis was 224 days."~Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
Life Span with Radiation
Radiation is considered the “gold standard” of treatment for nasal cancer in dogs. Radiation is expected to shrink the tumor (so the dog can breath better) and slow down the progression of nose cancer. It's more of a palliative treatment than a curative treatment. Radiation treatment though is not a walk in the park. Dogs who go through radiation treatment will have to undergo anesthesia repeatedly based on the number of treatments needed which can be anywhere between 10 and 20.
Also, many radiation machines are brought at a discount from human facilities which means they are 5 to 10 years old. While these may seem to be good deals, the problem is that with these machines it is quite challenging to confine treatment to a very specific area with the level of precision that is needed in the case of a nasal tumor, explains Dr. Philip J. Bergman, a board-specialized veterinarian specializing in internal medicine. This leads to many side effects such as mucositis, the inflammation of the dog's mucous membranes.
Nowadays, more targeted radiation therapies (Intensity-modulated radiation therapy, or IMRT and stereo-tactic radiation therapy, or SRT) are being formulated so to prevent targeting critical areas like the dog's face, mouth, eye and brain. If we look at studies, these new therapies look promising. For instance, dogs with nasal tumors who were treated with IMRT had a median survival time of 446 days.
"In dogs, Fan says, the median survival time for dogs and cats after treatment with curative intent radiation therapy is one year with a reasonable quality of life. Carcinoma survival time with treatment is six to 12 months, while sarcoma is 12 to 18 months."~DVM360
Life Span with Surgery
Surgical intervention is often frowned upon when there is cancer in the nose. It would make sense to just go under the knife and remove the cancer so that the dog can breath better, but things are not that easy. When you reach in a delicate area like deep up into the nasal cavity, the surgery is quite invasive and there are several risks such as life-threatening bleeding.
What type of surgery is generally performed? Rhinotomy (amputation of the dog's nose) and transnasal curettage are two surgeries that may be used for nasal cancer in dogs.
Studies have shown that dogs treated surgically though had a median survival time of 302 days (range, 32-1,995 days), while dogs treated by transnasal curettage had a median survival time of 377 days (range, 68-2,633 days) Surgery in particular seems to be particularly beneficial when done after radiation.
"Overall median survival time for dogs in the radiotherapy and surgery group (477 months) was significantly longer than time for dogs in the radiotherapy-only group (19.7 months)."~Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
Life Span With Chemo
As mentioned, there are different types of nose cancer in dogs and these may respond differently to treatment. Some forms of nose cancer may not particularly seem to benefit from chemo, but some others may.
When studies are looked at, a small study revealed that 50 to 100 percent of dogs with nasal cancer experienced a reduction in their cancer after treatment with carboplatin, doxorubicin and piroxicam. Palladia—Zoetis a drug with anticancer properties was shown in a pilot study, to cause complete response in one out of seven dogs.
As seen, there are several factors that may have an impact on the life expectancy in dogs with nasal cancer. Because of all of these factors, no exact figures can be provided. Studies though may reveal median survival times which can provide an insight, but even those numbers cannot really predict exact time frames.
- Veterinary Practice News: As Nasal Tumor Cases Grow, So Do Options
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