Southfields specialists tackle rare spinal cancer

April 19, 2021

Specialists at Southfields Veterinary Specialists, one of the UK’s leading referral vet centres, have combined successfully to tackle a rare spinal cancer in a four-year-old dog.

Dr Fabio Stabile, a neurology specialist at Linnaeus-owned Southfields Veterinary Specialists, near Basildon, Essex, uncovered the unusual case of a fibroma tumour while examining a border collie called Molly.

Molly had initially been referred to Southfields after her owners reported a number of collapses while she was out walking and an increasing lameness in her right front leg.

After a successful operation with Dr Stabile to remove the vast majority of the tumour, Molly underwent radiation therapy over a four-week inpatient stay with Head of Clinical and Radiation Oncology, Dr Sarah Mason, to kill any remaining cancer cells in her spine.

Dr Stabile said: “An MRI scan identified a tumour inside Molly’s vertebral column which was squashing her cervical spinal cord.

“She was immediately taken to surgery and we performed a dorsal laminectomy on the third and fourth cervical vertebrae to allow spinal cord decompression.

“A large, soft epidural mass was then removed from the spinal canal and the spinal cord was fully decompressed.

“The tumour was promptly sent off to the lab to find out from which tissue it had originated so we could plan future treatment.”

Molly made a remarkable recovery and could walk almost normally again within 24 hours. She was allowed home while the vets awaited the results of her tumour analysis.

Those tests revealed the tumour was a rare fibroma, a type of tumour which grows from the fibrous tissues and causes problems by local compression of the spine rather than spreading.

“This was a new problem as, due to the important and delicate nature of the spinal cord, it was impossible to be sure that every cell of the tumour had been removed” added Dr Stabile.

“This meant the tumour still had the potential to regrow and paralyse Molly again.”

Molly was referred internally to Dr Mason in a bid to prevent such a recurrence.

Dr Mason said: “We opted for a course of radiation therapy for Molly, a local treatment which kills tumour cells and is delivered using a high energy X-ray machine under a short general anaesthetic.

This is an extremely effective treatment, but in Molly’s case, it was not a quick and easy fix.

“Radiation to the spinal cord is usually delivered in small “fractions” on a daily basis over a period of four weeks, so Molly had to come and stay with us for a month to undergo the necessary treatments.

“Happily, she’s back home now and doing very well. She has her normal mobility again and is really enjoying quality, fun time with her family.”

The Ward family, from Leigh-on-Sea, were overjoyed by the outcome and full of praise for the talented team at Southfields.

A heart-warming letter to the hospital read: “Molly is doing really well and is back to her normal naughty self! We honestly cannot thank everyone enough for the amazing care and treatment that she received and we are truly grateful.

“Thank you once again for giving our gorgeous girl the best chance possible. We cannot recommend you enough.”

At Southfields Veterinary Specialists, we’re dedicated to providing the highest standards of veterinary care for pets and providing a seamless service to owners and referring vets.

We offer 14 specialist services including; anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology, dentistry and maxillofacial surgery, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, emergency and critical care, exotics, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, radiation and soft tissue surgery.

For more information on our veterinary referral services, click here to visit our services page.