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Veterinary Oncology – Radiation Treatment: What to Expect

We have a video available to show a patient’s experience with radiation treatment at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine.

A Linear Accelerator produces a beam of photons or electrons to kill cancer cells.  UF College of Veterinary Medicine Oncology has the most advanced radiation facility for treating pets in the Southeastern United States.

Meet one of our patients – he has a skin cancer called a mast cell tumor.  Let’s follow our patient through a radiation treatment.

First the radiation therapist prepares the room.  Then takes the patient from the Oncology Ward to the Linear accelerator.  Special ports beneath the skin are often used in radiation patients to administer drugs painlessly.  Our patient is given a light anesthetic through the port to relax him and keep him still during his treatment.  A tube is passed into his airway and he is given oxygen throughout the procedure.  Our patient is placed into a specially made mold.  This mold allows his body (and the cancer, marked with a blue cross) to be in the same position every day of treatment.

The table is moved into position, the lights dimmed, and lasers are used to align the mold to exactly match the position of the previous day’s treatment.  Here you can see the cross hairs on the mold are being lined up with the red laser cross hairs.  Two arms move into position – these will take a real time CT scan to help finely tune patient positioning.  The entire gantry is then rotated around the patient to ensure there are no obstructions to movement.  Finally a thick layer called ‘bolus’ is placed over the skin to increase the radiation dose to the cancer scar.  Everyone leaves the radiation room, and a heavy lead-lined door seals the vault.

The anesthetist monitors the patient by remotely-controlled cameras from the control room.  A CT is then taken – you can see the circular metal port in our patient’s neck used to anesthetize him.  The therapist uses the CT to take today’s position and exactly match it to the daily treatment plan.  The plan is finalized and radiation delivered.  Now the treatment is over.  Short-acting anesthetics are used to allow patients to wake quickly once treatment is over.  This may be one treatment out of 18 or 20 and so we want the experience to be safe and easy.  Within 30 minutes our patient is up and about and soon is ready to go back to mom.  They are happily re-united.

Thank you for watching from the Oncology Service, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida