ONCE very much taboo subjects, cancer and chemotherapy are being demystified. Clients are increasingly well informed about the options available for treating cancer in humans and pets alike. Indeed, cancer is now often considered to be a curable disease in humans and there is growing pressure on veterinary practitioners to ensure the appropriate and safe use of cancer therapies in animals. Many cases of cancer can be cured or very effectively managed without causing unnecessary suffering. Chemotherapy plays a central role in managing some common diseases, and many appropriate chemotherapy protocols are cited in the literature. Often these protocols have been adapted or developed within universities or training/research establishments, where clinicians have wide-ranging expertise in cancer-related issues and the dilemmas associated with clinical and ethical patient management. Chemotherapy drugs (also known as cytotoxic, anticancer and antineoplastic drugs) have a narrow therapeutic index, and should not be administered unless the practitioner is familiar with individual drug toxicities and possible drug interactions. This article addresses the safety aspects of administering cytotoxic drugs within the small animal veterinary practice environment, focusing in particular on safety issues relating to the patient, veterinary professionals and carers.
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