Surgical Oncology

Surgery alone cures more cancers than any other type of treatment

The quality of surgery is vital to treatment success

Despite the advances in chemotherapy and other treatment modalities, surgery continues to be the most effective option for the management of cancer. Clinical cures are more commonly achieved by surgical removal of localised disease than with any other treatment modality.

Cancer surgery is a specialised discipline and very few veterinarians receive any specific training in the technical aspects of tumour resection. The surgeons at AURA are the most experienced cancer veterinary surgeons working in the UK, with a collective experience of over 50 years working almost exclusively with cancer patients.

This experience, and the shared philosophical approaches to cancer management, ensure that patients having surgery at AURA can be certain of receiving the appropriate surgical intervention to maximise the chances of a successful outcome.

The surgical team at AURA are the most experienced cancer surgeons working in the UK

Common cancers

Mast cell tumours

Mast cell tumours are more common in the older dog (mean age: 9 years). Some dog breeds have an increased incidence of tumour occurrence, including the English bull terrier, boxers, Boston terriers, Labradors, beagles and schnauzers. In the dog, mast cell tumours typically develop in or under the skin, with spread possibly occurring to internal organs such as lymph nodes, liver and spleen. Mast cell tumours most frequently occur on the trunk (50%), with the remainder on the extremities (40%) and head (10%).

Mast cell tumours are the great pretender. They can develop on the skin, or under the skin. They can be small, they can be large. They can be red, puffy and angry. 

They can also appear completely innocuous.

Soft tissue sarcomas can be challenging due to location, especially when the mass is large, deep, or seems fixed in position.

A well-considered surgical plan from a cancer specialist however is the first step in giving the patient the best chance to do well.

Soft tissue sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcomas (STS) are a large group of tumours coming from tissues making up the skeleton (muscles, tendons, nerves, fat). STS may arise anywhere in the body, but most commonly appear on the legs. They typically present as a firm round swellings. They can present the clinician with significant challenges with respect to management. However, when treated appropriately the outlook for the majority of dogs is very good. However, about 20-30% of dogs may ultimately struggle or even die from their disease due to the tumour growing back aggressively, or spreading within the body.

Oral tumours

A variety of benign and malignant tumour types may occur in the mouth. These tumours may arise from the bones, muscles or gum layer of the upper or lower jaw. They are typically destructive, causing swelling and loss of the bone surrounding the teeth. In the dog, the following malignant tumours have been described: fibrosarcoma, malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and osteosarcoma. Melanoma are often dark black in colour, but this is not always the case. Surgical removal is usually the most successful treatment modality for oral cancer.

Various surgical procedures have been described for oral tumours. Despite what can look like a large surgery, clinical recovery is usually rapid with animals generally eating very quickly following surgery, often even the same day. Long term function is usually good to excellent.

Oral surgery is well-tolerated by our patients. Excellent functional and cosmetic outcomes are usually achievable for many patients with oral cancer.

We think about anal sac cancer in the same way as heart disease or diabetes; while outright cure may not be possible, we hope treatment will allow patients to enjoy a full and active life while comfortably keeping their disease under control.

Anal sac tumours

Anal sac tumours may be detected for a variety of reasons and may occasionally be discovered unexpectedly during routine examination. Some animals show an increased thirst, while other dogs may some change in toilet routines.

Careful rectal palpation is necessary as up to 50% will not be detectable on external examination alone. Anal sac cancer can be aggressive, and up to half may already have spread by the time of presentation so early assessment is vital. Internal cancer spread in some cases can even cause a blockage or obstruction of the bowel meaning a patient straining to pass stools might be the first sign of the disease.

Liver tumours

Liver tumours come in all sizes; they are often single but occasionally several occur at the same time. Liver masses can cause discomfort as they grow and stretch the liver, and can also cause problems by pressing on the the stomach, blood vessels or gall bladder. Successful surgical removal results in an improved quality of life for most patients.

The surgeons at AURA successfully manage a wide range of complex liver tumour cases every year, many of which come to the team having already been deemed inoperable and untreatable. The expertise of the AURA surgical team, based on decades of experience, ensure patients receive the best chance of a good outcome.

Single liver tumours – even if large – are best managed by surgery. With a combination of careful surgical planning, excellent imaging, world-class experience, and a good team approach, successful removal of a wide variety of liver tumours is regularly achieved at AURA

AURA Stories

Find out more about

13 years –
Chinese Crested

Meet Alfie, a 13 year old Chinese Crested who has just had surgery to remove a melanoma from his paw pad.

About 15 months ago his mum noticed a pink growth under his paw, about the size of a pea.

It didn’t seem to be causing any trouble but as time went on the mass gradually grew bigger and became ulcerated. Alfie began licking it and eventually in the last few weeks began to limp, not wanting to put any weight on the paw.

He was referred to AURA for further investigations and was booked in to see Dr Jonathan Bray.

Find out more about

Surgical oncology staff

Nick Bacon
Professor Nick Bacon
Surgical Oncology & Soft Tissue Surgery
Jonathan Bray
Dr Jonathan Bray
Surgical Oncology & Soft Tissue Surgery
Laurent Findji
Dr Laurent Findji
Surgical Oncology & Soft Tissue Surgery
Stefano Manca
Dr Stefano Manca
ECVS Surgical resident
Dr Maria Potamopoulou
Dr Maria Potamopoulou
ECVS Surgical resident
Nadine Schneider
Dr Nadine Schneider
ECVS Surgical resident
Jolene Gander
Jolene Gander
Senior Nurse (Surgery)
Georgia King
Georgia King
Acting Senior Nurse (Surgery)
Clare Maskery
Clare Maskery
Senior Nurse (Surgery)
Chesca Wintermeyer
Francesca Wintermeyer
Senior Nurse (Surgery)