TO REDUCE TREATMENT COSTS
people are desperate for ideas on how to reduce treatment costs
for canine cancer treatment. Here are a few ideas to work on until I
get this page published properly.
There is much discussion of a trend toward "over-treatment" for dogs
wtih cancer. This is a very new specialty. Some of the veterinarians
and veterinary oncologists providing cancer treatment and
learning how to do this are anxious to use every tool avaiable,
every diagnostic test and treatment to the max. Pick and choose, find
out what's necessary and what's over the top. This is a method to cut
costs and also an important method to avoid putting your dog through
Cut Costs for Chemotherapy Treatment
The chemo protocols are calculated from the average response to various
drugs and various combinations of drugs and various schedules. Most are
calculated form relatively small study groups (a small number of dogs)
and the results are not as exact or as reliable as human studies that
must include many more study participants.
Chemotherapy is not an exact science. (This is even more true for dogs
than it is for humans.) For example, in a study, some percent of the
dogs survived longest when treatment was given every week, at a
particular drug dose. But for other dogs in the study, (perhaps only
slightly less), it was too often or too high a dose and they could not
tolerate the treatment and died. For some other percent, the schedule
was too open or the dose was too low and the chemo was not effective -
they did not go into remission (if lymphoma) or the tumor recurred.
Think of it
this way - many dogs can't tolerate the full dose every
week, as above. If your dog is in that group, this reduction will
actually improve his chances of survival
are two simple ways to lighten financial burden:
- Schedule treatment less often (i.e.,
every 10 days or 2 weeks rather than every week).
- Or instruct the doctor to give 75% of
the recommended dose.
Cut Costs for Surgery
For most cancers, there are various chemotherapy
protocols that have good success rates. Ask your doctor to suggest
several of the most effective protocols (not just the one he/she uses
routinely). Then, you can choose the least expensive one.
For any intravenous (IV) chemo drugs, find out if the drug is available
in pill form that you can give at home rather than having IV treatment
at the clinic.
Check prices of the chemotherapy agents. Often, you'll find that you
purchase them (with a prescription from your doctor) from a pharmacy at
a lower price.
Cut Costs for
- Surgery: First and foremost,
be forewarned that after
surgery it is very likely that you will receive news "Your dog needs a
2nd surgery," or "Now we have to give him chemotherapy," or "He must
have radiation therapy if we want him to survive." This may be because
the doctor did not take wide margins around the tumor, and the biopsy
report states that it is a malignant cancer. Or because the biopsy
report shows that the entire tumor was removed but there is (most
likely) still "microscopic disease."
To save costs and trauma to your dog that might be avoided
- Get a second opinion
before allowing surgery on a dog with cancer, and possibly a third.
- Let the doctor know
that you will not be able to afford chemo or radiation after the
surgery and that he/she must make every effort to eradicate the cancer
in this one procedure.
- Ask the doctors to
take wide margins whether they believe the tumor to be malignant or
Radiation therapy is often the most expensive type of treatment.
there are two options - your doctor will tell you that he/she can
provide "Curative Radiation Therapy" or "Palliative Radiation Therapy."
Your doctor may say that if you want to really fight the cancer and try
to save your
dog's life, you must choose the Curative protocol.
- Curative: Usually
curative calls for treatment every day Monday through Friday (5
treatments a week). Often, the dog stays at the clinic during the week
and can go home on weekends. This is hard on the owners. Often, the dog
has severe radiation burns and open wounds for months with danger of
infection. Sometimes, the dog dies during the 5-days a week
radiation therapy protocol.
- Palliative: The palliative plan
is easier on the dog, you don't have to be without him for whole weeks,
and of course it is less expensive. There are several protocols for
palliative radiation. Some require treatment once a week, and others
call for treatment three times a week. Your doctor should agree to your
choice of curative or palilative.
protocol turns out to actually be curative (the cancer does not return).
Sometimes the curative protocol is not
Choose one and then
"believe" that it was the right choice no matter what the outcome
is. Because after you choose one
course of treatment, you will not know what the result would have been
had chosen the other.