Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Charlie update

This morning we met with Dr. Dernell from the Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. After looking over the x-rays, CT scans and lab reports we brought with us and examining Charlie in person, he told us the cancer in Charlie's mouth could be one of four types, from the least severe to the most severe: fibrosarcoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma or osteosarcoma. The first two would probably be benign and could be cured surgically. Melanoma would be malignant and might require radiation therapy or chemotherapy in addition to surgery. And osteosarcoma, which metastasizes quickly through the bones, would probably mean he didn't have long to live regardless of treatment.

What I thought were biopsies that had been done by Charlie's regular veterinarian were really cytology studies, looking for cancer cells in the fluid from the tumor and a nearby lymph node. Today Charlie is having an actual biopsy of the tumor tissue. Erin, the veterinary student who is assisting Dr. Dernell, just called to say that they removed a significant piece of the tumor for study. We should have the results tomorrow, with surgery scheduled for Friday. The biopsy will give a good indication of how aggressive the surgery needs to be to excise all of the cancer. At this point, they are expecting to remove the four top molars on the left side, along with a significant portion of the maxilla, orbital and zygomatic arch above them. His left eye will not be affected, but his face will be flattened somewhat on that side and his eye will point slightly outward until scar tissue develops to pull it back forward. His depth perception should not be affected.

Charlie is such a handsome dog it saddens me to think that he will never look quite the same again, but if there is a possibility that this treatment will enable him to live another five or so happy and healthy years, then it is definitely worth it. More tomorrow...

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