We see technological advances all the time in our lives and in our practice. Things that we couldn’t even imagine ten years ago are happening every day. I am going to reveal my age here, but when I first started practicing as a veterinarian few private practices had X-ray machines, and all of them used film for radiographs. Now many practices have digital radiography and can take a radiograph and e-mail it to a radiologist within minutes. Hopefully these changes in technology are used to improve the level of care we can provide to our patients.
Imaging is one area where technology has improved in leaps and bounds. Today Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) are available in many different veterinary centers. PET scans (Positron Emission Tomography) are available at some veterinary schools. These tools allow us to get an incredibly detailed look inside the body to identify diseases. When it comes to cancer accurate imaging is crucial to help diagnose tumors and to identify exactly where the tumor is in relation to the normal tissues.
However, this technology is not just useful for diagnosis. New advances in technology are changing the ways that we are able to treat tumors. There are approximately 70 centers in the world that have radiation therapy capabilities for treating animals. Most of these facilities have linear accelerators for treating cancer, which allow us to focus radiation to the tumor, while avoiding the normal tissues. Some of these facilities have a technology called intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) or stereotactic radiation. These techniques, used with advanced imaging techniques, allow us to truly pinpoint the radiation to the tumor, and minimize the dose of radiation to any normal tissues in the area. By doing this we are able to effectively treat pets with cancer, while minimizing damage to their normal tissues…helping us achieve our goal of effectively treating cancer, while keeping our patient’s quality of life as normal as possible.
I look forward to seeing what the next ten years brings to allow us to provide the best care possible for our patients with cancer.