The Magic Bullet Fund


* Also see Medical Cautions page for additional information

So many 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 unnecessary trauma.

Cut Costs for Chemotherapy Treatment
  • Chemotherapy I
    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

Therefore, here 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 vet to give 75% of the recommended dose.
  • Chemotherapy II
    For most cancers, there are various chemotherapy protocols that have good success rates. Ask your vet 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.

  • Chemotherapy III
    Check prices of the chemotherapy agents. Often, you'll find that you purchase them (with a prescription from your vet) from a pharmacy at a lower price.
Cut Costs for Surgery
  • 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 vet 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 vet 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 vets to take wide margins whether they believe the tumor to be malignant or not.
Cut Costs for Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is often the most expensive type of treatment. Usually there are two options - your vet will tell you that he/she can provide "Curative Radiation Therapy" or "Palliative Radiation Therapy." Your vet 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 vet should agree to your choice of curative or palilative.

    Nota Bene: 
    Sometimes a palliative protocol turns out to actually be curative (the cancer does not return).
    Sometimes the curative protocol is not effective.

    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 if you had chosen the other.


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