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A veterinarian diagnosed with cancer offers pet advice and tips!

Last Updated on October 19, 2022 by Dogs Vets

A veterinarian diagnosed with cancer offers pet advice and tips! 


A veterinarian diagnosed with cancer discusses the knowledge she has gained by working with animal clients

Dr. Renee Alsarraf, who had spent her whole professional life focusing on cancer treatment, found it difficult to deal with the news of her own diagnosis.

We tend to think of cancer as a disease that only affects humans, but in reality, dogs, cats, and a variety of other animals can also be affected by it.

According to fossil evidence, dinosaurs just like us developed cancerous tumors in their skeletons.

When our four-legged friends are diagnosed with cancer, they are given some of the same therapies that human patients are given.

These treatments include radiation and the same chemotherapy medications, but most of them do not lose their fur as a result of the treatment.

Dr. Renee Alsarraf has worked in the field of veterinary oncology for more than 20 years, during which time she has provided cancer treatment for a vast number of animals.

Then, during the summer of 2018, she was given the news that she, too, had the disease: endometrial cancer, which is a form of uterine cancer that begins in the uterine lining.

Alsarraf, who is 55 years old and lives in Montclair, New Jersey, shared her story with TODAY in the hopes that it will serve as a warning to other women.

“I had no clinical signs. I did not experience any weight loss. I wasn’t sluggish at all.”

Dr. Renee Alsarraf and her dog, Dusty
Dr. Renee Alsarraf and her dog, Dusty, pose for the camera. After completing therapy for endometrial cancer four years ago, the veterinarian reports that she is in good health. Thank you very much, Joseph Frazz

Her cancer was discovered during the annual checkup that is customary in the field of gynecology.

During surgery, it was discovered that the cancer had secretly grown outside of her uterus to her uterosacral ligament. As a result, she had to go through 25 doses of radiation and “a whole amount of chemotherapy,”

. It’s highly possible that the surgeon’s observation of the teeny-tiny metastasis saved her life.

The veterinarian, although having spent her entire career to the treatment of cancer, struggled to come to terms with her own illness until she found that she could draw strength from her patients who were animals and from her own family’s pets.


She discussed her experience with TODAY, which was as follows:


Why does cancer strike such a high percentage of living things?

Cancer occurring in both people and animals should not come as a shock to anyone. Every single day, we make a few insignificant modifications to our DNA.

Quite frequently, our body is able to either repair the broken strand of DNA or put a stop to the division of the affected cell.

Both animals and people, as they age, experience a slowing of the mechanisms that repair damage and a diminished ability to even recognize when they have made a mistake.

Sometimes, though, that cell does not die and eventually develops into cancer. It is now capable of dividing in an uncontrollable manner.

In both dogs and cats, lymphoma is the most frequent form of cancer.

The vast majority of the medications that we employ are virtually identical to those that are administered to patients, but in far higher or lower doses. Dogs, thankfully, suffer from different or fewer adverse effects than humans.

I had no problem uttering the word “cancer” in front of my patients, but when it was directed toward me, I felt my knees go weak and I didn’t want to be associated with that illness. I referred to it as “the C word.” Because it is now written with a lowercase “c,” I am assigning it less importance.

If we were having this conversation in person, I’d give it the finger right between the eyes.


 veterinarian diagnosed with cancer

This organization provides persons with impairments with the opportunity to partner with service animals. 

What differences did you notice between human medicine and animal medicine as a patient?

I think that knowledge is power, so when someone comes in with their pet, I inform them about the ailment and the available treatment choices.

We discuss the many adverse effects, as well as the differences in prognosis and cost. Thus, they will be able to make the greatest decision for their pet and their family.

When we see our doctor, we are generally offered a single treatment plan, which we blindly adhere to. We are not offered the available alternatives. We are not informed of the various processes and what they could be. It was more difficult for me to simply follow along blindly.

Another challenging aspect for me was that none of my doctors ever discussed prognosis. In veterinary medicine, it is common to state that, for the average dog, a certain percentage will enter remission, and that this remission will last a specific number of months or years.

No one, including the surgeon, radiation oncologist, and medical oncologist, would answer my question. Their reasoning, which I can appreciate, was that it doesn’t matter what the majority do; what matters is what you do.

It does not matter what the averages are if you are among the 10% who perform really poorly or the 20% who defy all chances.

My hunch is that if they informed you it wasn’t going to be amazing, you would enter with a negative attitude, whereas you should always have a positive outlook.

What lessons did you learn about surviving your therapy from your animal patients?


We can employ dogs as guides during our hardships.

They seldom squander time with anxiety. I attempt to constantly remind myself: What has worrying ever accomplished for me? It is our method of attempting to control something over which we have no authority.

However, such negative energy simply helps to bring us down, particularly during times of stress or difficulty.

I am certain that my dog is delighted every morning when the sun rises. It is simply a more nicer and better way to live.

We have dogs living with us who demonstrate this on a daily basis, so perhaps we should just remember to halt and gaze at them as a reminder.

Another lesson is that dogs never pass judgment on humans. It makes no difference if you recently lost your job or made a mistake and felt like an idiot. They never pass judgment. I have an inner voice that may be really harsh and critical of me.

Sometimes she won’t stop talking, which is not a healthy way to live. It serves no purpose other than to tear us down. Never do dogs have that. When I was lying on the couch with chemo hair glued to my head, my dog stared at me with the same adoration as before.

Dogs accept us as we are, allowing us to be ourselves. It should be OK for us to love, accept, and cherish ourselves inside.


Frequent Asked Questions 


How long does it take for a dog to die from cancer?

Without treatment, the average amount of time someone survives after receiving a diagnosis is roughly two months.


Do dogs have the ability to sense when they have cancer?

Summary. Dogs have a nose that is so acutely attuned to scent that they are able to identify the distinct odor profiles associated with different kinds of cancer.

By sniffing people’s skin, bodily fluids, or breath, they can detect several forms of cancer, including colon cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma, among others.


How can a dog that has cancer be made to feel more comfortable?

She goes on to say that although each dog and diagnosis is unique, sick dogs typically require a great deal of relaxation as well as low-stress activities.

For instance, if your dog has bone cancer, which raises the likelihood of fractures, it is best to take him on a leisurely stroll rather than jog with him or allow him to play roughly with other dogs.


What can you say to comfort someone whose dog has been diagnosed with cancer?

Listen – Sometimes simply listening is the most helpful thing you can do to assist. Demonstrate compassion.

You may not be able to cure the cancer that has been diagnosed in your friend’s pet, but you can say “I’m sorry” and offer them a shoulder to cry on.


How does a vet diagnose cancer in a dog?

Staging the cancer enables the veterinarian to determine whether or not the disease has metastasized, or spread, throughout the body. In certain instances, they will be able to determine the stage of the cancer based on the results of the diagnostic process.

Needle aspiration, biopsy, blood work, ultrasounds, and other diagnostic procedures could be performed as part of the testing process.


Is it painful for dogs to get cancer?

Some of the pain associated with cancer can be quite severe. When a tumor invades neighboring tissues and grows in size, a patient may experience acute discomfort from cancer.

Acute pain can also be a reaction to medical procedures such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery. Pain resulting from other aspects of cancer may be ongoing.


Is it possible for dogs to beat cancer without receiving treatment?

How much longer do you think my dog will live if the cancer isn’t treated?

It is contingent upon the tumor. As an illustration, sarcomas are typically aggressive tumors of connective tissue that develop locally. Some dogs will live for years with their owners if they are provided with palliative care and supportive care.


Is pumpkin beneficial for cancer-ridden dogs to eat?

Beta-carotene and vitamin A, both of which can act as antioxidants, can be found in abundant supply in pumpkin.

Similar to the antioxidants found in berries, those found in pumpkins help protect against the dangers posed by free radicals, which can include cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory illness, and cataracts.


What kinds of foods should cancer-ridden dogs avoid eating?

Carbohydrates are very attractive to cancer cells. Carbs are used by tumors to accelerate the growth of cancer cells; therefore, if a dog’s diet contains a high level of carbohydrates, it will actually feed the tumor while starving the patient.


Should a cancer-stricken dog be given a bath?

When someone in your home has just got chemotherapy, you need to take extra precautions to clean the house thoroughly so that none of the poisons left behind by the treatment will have an effect on you or any of the other people or animals that live there.

During the course of their chemotherapy treatment, this may require you to give your dog some sponge washes on a frequent basis.




Source: Today



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