When facing a pet’s cancer diagnosis, first and foremost owners want help—information, guidance, and compassion. The last thing they want is to spend hours traveling from one specialist to another.
Penn Vet’s Comprehensive Cancer Care (CCC) section at Ryan Hospital focuses on providing pets and their owners the coordinated care they need in one hospital.
“Our name says it all—we’re a comprehensive service,” said Dr. Jennifer Mahoney, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medical Oncology and Section Chief of the CCC. “We offer medical oncology, surgical oncology, and radiation oncology in one setting, which is unique among many hospitals.”
Caring Starts at Hello
Care begins before a patient comes through Ryan Hospital’s door. “Clients calling for an appointment are referred directly to our service,” explained Mahoney. “Two of our nurses coordinate client calls, schedule appointments, and help prepare owners for what to expect during visits.” Mahoney adds this coordinator program is a pilot that’s receiving great feedback from clients—and, she said, "We’re able see more patients and are growing our team as a result.”
Upon arriving at Ryan Hospital, every cancer patient receives the full attention of a team, including students, oncology residents, and senior clinicians in radiation, medical, and surgical oncology.
“The team meets twice daily to review our cases,” said Dr. Sarah Benjamin, Medical Oncology Resident. “We look at our patients’ diagnostics and conditions and discuss treatment options. There’s no one way of doing things in oncology, so it’s always better to get multiple opinions and have everyone at the table to evaluate—and reevaluate—the best course of treatment.”
And at all points along an animal’s cancer journey, Penn Vet nurses play a critical role. “Our hardworking nurses are so talented,” Benjamin said. “They are vital in getting patients through the door and treated seamlessly.”
Penn Vet’s oncology team also collaborates closely with the School’s cancer researchers—among them world renowned leaders in immuno-oncology—and clients are among the first to know of clinical trials advancing cancer prevention and treatment in animals and humans. “We help actively recruit for trials—in fact, we’re recruiting for a new clinical trial in lymphoma and an upcoming trial for hemangiosarcoma,” said Mahoney.
For the owners, this comprehensive approach offers added peace of mind during a stressful period. Said Benjamin, “We have a great clientele that’s not only interested in treating their pets but also doing things that will benefit our learning, like participating in trials. They appreciate every member of their pets’ care team, from students to nurses to senior clinicians.”
For the dogs and cats who make up the majority of Penn Vet’s cancer patients—“We see a lot of cats, maybe more than any other veterinary school in the country,” said Mahoney—the collaborative expertise and loving attention means the best chances for a longer and better quality life with cancer.