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12.5 yr old with High Grade Mast Cell Tumour - Chemo or not


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Hi all, long time reader, first time poster (due to never really having any big issues with my dog). 


My dog, Simba, is a male 12 and half year old Labrador / Kelpie. He is in really good health otherwise; a good weight, still walks twice a day (slowly), and has enough energy to bark at one of our neighbours most days ;)


He has recently had a Mast Cell tumour, Kiupel high grade, removed from his back (just behind his neck) as it had perforated his skin and he was bleeding quite extensively. The Vet's removed the tumour with non-clear margins, an ellipse of the skin 74x46x11mm which beared a well-defined nodule 27x20x7mm.


The vet has given us three solid options: a) invasive surgery and chemo (not an option at his age); b) just Chemo; c) no treatment. Stating that he will likely need to be put down after four months with no treatment, and chemo should give him an extra 6 - 12 months (if he reacts well to it). 


I was wondering the following from anyone who has had a dog with a Mast Cell Tumour (and I invite brutal honesty). 

a) People's experience with chemotherapy in dogs? Interested in both positive and negative experiences. 

b) If he reacts badly to one or two chemo treatments and we decide to stop them, thoughts on whether those negative side effects last, or will subside once the treatment wears off?

c) I have read a bit on this forum and others about natural therapies. Thoughts on these and weather its worth doing them solo, or complimenting chemo with them?

d) Any other feedback in relation to this. 



Thank you all in advance for your help. Any advice would be a great help to Simba, myself, and my family. 

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My staffy had multiple mast cell tumours removed. What eventually killed him was a subcutaneous mast cell that couldn't be removed and I had to decide the time had come. He was still happy in himself but the tumour started to bleed and was starting to impede his movement, so I saw the vet (was seeing her monthly anyway) and we decided it was best for him.


We discussed chemo with the first mast cell, but due to his age, I decided against it. We removed 6 from memory. The one that killed him, the vet had warned me it was a very aggressive one and to be prepared. It actually went silent for four years, which was a blessing. Once it took off though, he had two months.


The not clear margins would be the problem. It sounds like they can't reoperate to take more? We had to do that on a stomach one and that had a good outcome. 


He always came through surgery well and the vet was very happy with his recovery, otherwise I may have looked at other options. But the vet was happy with our approach to monitor, remove if something changed or grew fast.


He lived to just shy of 14yo. Was always happy in himself and as comfortable as possible.


It's so hard when they get old. You want them to live forever. For me quality of life outweighed quantity and as I said, we had a lengthy reprieve before the end.

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my Maremma girl Lucinda was dxd with MCT grade 3 no clean margins  aged 5. Initially planned  another surgery to attempt to get clean margins but in the  few days between that decision and the op she had gone downhill markedly and the oncologist at the uni recommended I take her home for a few days to say goodbye!!!  well my usual vet did not think things were that dire and I consulted with Dr Barbara Fougere ( All Natural Vet Care ) .. and she and Tony Lucindas' usual vet here in Queensland treated her together. I am pleased to say that Lucinda lived another 6 years  remaining  with her beloved sheep and goats until she retired due to age. She was holistically treated. 

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Jordit, his last surgery was done at 13yo. We removed the aggressive tumour as it changed from the pea size it was for four years to grape sized. I beat myself up over it until I realised whatever decision I would have made would have been wrong. If we'd left it, that tumour would have killed him. We removed it and the subcutaneous came up. So it was a no win for me and once I realised that I coped better. The vet said the subcutaneous was probably linked to what we removed, so it's just how the cards fell. We were lucky up till then.


I think his first mast cells were removed at 8yo. Staffies are very prone to them apparently. He had other joint issues - arthritis, fusing spine, neuro issue with back legs. So discussed chemo with vet vs removal as required. We went the second route and he got another 6 years. Apparently dogs respond differently to chemo than humans, but I just didn't want to put him through it. Our margins came back clear on the first two removals, done at the same time, so that probably helped my decision.


I'd discuss with your vet if they could reoperate and take more margin. As I noted above, we had to do that, and it went really well. He was prob 10 or 11 for that one. It was huge.


ETA Ops were done by my general vet, but she is VERY good. I travel 25 mins to see her when there's vets literally 500m up the road...

Edited by karen15
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As sandgrubber mentioned, there are a couple of threads about chemo.


My advice would be to get scanning done (CT or ultrasound) to check for metastasis and speak to an oncologist. If you are considering further surgery then consult with a specialist surgeon.  


Before commencing chemo, you need to get the facts, and an oncologist will provide you with the most up to date information. There is a common misconception that chemo means a sick dog and reduced quality of life, but in reality the majority of dogs receiving chemo experience no or minimal side effects. Like all medication, the aim is to maintain quality of life. My 11 year old girl has nearly finished her second round of chemo for grade 3 MCT and she has had no side effects such as nausea etc. If she had not received treatment, she either wouldn't be here today, or she'd likely be dealing with the symptoms of metastatic disease. But with treatment, she has outlived her prognosis and is her normal, happy, active self. That's quality of life.  





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