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wag expert advice | ruff guide: melanoma annie 9-year-old domestic shorthair condition: melanoma treatment: surgery, chemotherapy, melanoma vaccine, radiation Annie is a natural-born athlete, always jumping and climbing, so it seemed unusual when her mom Susan noticed Annie constantly licking her paw. After a few trips to the vet to treat what they thought was a deep cut that wouldn’t heal, Annie’s vet discovered a tumor in her foot. Annie was started on two oral chemotherapy drugs and even received the melanoma vaccine. Originally developed for dogs, it hadn’t been tested much in cats, but Annie’s doc thought it could help — and it did. Follow-up appointments have shown no regrowth of the tumor and no evidence that it spread. As for Annie, the treatments never slowed her down. “She’s still a bundle of energy with a good appetite,” says Susan. And, of course, “she’s as cuddly as ever.” prognosis The prognosis for cutaneous (skin) melanoma is excellent. Surgery is generally curative. However, the prognosis for malignant melanoma in the mouth or on the toes is guarded. Mean survival time for patients with oral melanoma will vary, but those patients with lymph node involvement at the time of surgery have a life expectancy of one to three months. The prognosis improves if there’s no evidence of metastasis, but even small (<2cm) masses result in mean survival times of about a year and a half. For masses found on the toe, mean survival times for dogs without lymph node involvement are about a year, with 50 percent of dogs alive one year post amputation and 12 percent alive at two years. Because size matters in staging, it is imperative that melanomas are addressed immediately. If you find a mass in your dog’s mouth or she comes up lame with a swollen toe, do not wait around hoping it will get better on its own. Timely diagnosis is key with this highly aggressive tumor. prevention There’s no way to prevent melanoma, as there is no one cause of the disease. You may have heard about a melanoma vaccine, but unlike most vaccines, it is not preventive. The melanoma vaccine, called Oncept®, is a DNA-based vaccine used in dogs with stage II or III oral melanoma to prolong survival time. It is administered in conjunction with surgery and/or radiation therapy. case study 28 fun in the sun issue


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