Note for Pet Owners:
This information is provided by
Provet for educational purposes only.
You should seek the advice of
your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise
on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for
Q."Can the radiotherapy used to treat my animal with cancer affect my family and I due to radioactivity?"
A. NO. The "radiation" used in this form of radiotherapy are Xrays which only affect tissues that they are directly aimed at. XRays are not "radioactive" and are not emitted following exposure from patients or the environment. However, there are other forms of treatment for cancer which involve the use of radio-isotopes (e.g. the use of radio-isotopes of iodine to treat thyroid cancer) and, even though these are only mildly radioactive, they do require special handling procedures to prevent exposure to people.
The treatment of cancers with X-rays - so called radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, has become an established form of treatment for certain cancers in veterinary medicine just as it has in human medicine. Radiotherapy is often used in conjunction with other forms of treatment including surgical removal, chemotherapy and hyperthermia.
The technique involves bombarding cancerous tissues with Xray doses that will effectively kill off the cancer cells. One of the disadvantages of this technique is that the high Xray dose needed can also harm normal healthy tissue with which it comes into contact, so unpleasant side-effects are not uncommon.
For squamous cell carcinoma in the mouth or pharynx of dogs 3000-5000 rad is reported to be effective when given over a 2 week period , unless the cancer has already spread to regional lymph nodes.
Updated January 2016