Radiographic abnormality may include gastric distension. Contrast studies confirm delayed gastric emptying and appreciate
luminal narrowing of the stomach from associated neoplasia. Endoscopy has largely replaced the use of contrast studies in
the diagnosis of gastric neoplasia.
Full-thickness biopsies are required if endoscopic biopsies are non-diagnostic. The ultrasonographic appearance usually shows
irregularly thickened, hyperechoic-to-hypoechoic layering in the gastric wall and a poorly defined gastric lumen. Enlarged
gastric lymph nodes and metastatic disease in regional tissues may also be noted.
Benefits from chemotherapy and radiation therapy for management of gastric adenocarcinoma are nil. Gastric adenocarcinoma
is best treated surgically.
When the entire gastric tumor is removed and there is no evidence of metastasis to surrounding lymph nodes or organs at the
time of surgery, the prognosis is still guarded, meaning that recurrence of the tumor is likely even in this case. To monitor
for progression of the neoplastic process, physical examination and abdominal and thoracic radiography at one, three, six,
nine and 12 months after surgery are done and owners are instructed to watch daily for melena.
The average life expectancy after surgery for this type of tumor is probably only six months to a year, but dogs do seem to
be comfortable most of that time.
Veterinary surgeons tend to be optimistic by nature. It takes a certain amount of optimism just to do surgery, considering
the risks of anesthesia and routine surgical procedures and then to want to take on the added risks of removing portions of
vital organs just takes an attitude in which a person believes things will turn out all right. Veterinarians who practice
primarily medicine tend to be a little more pessimistic, especially about surgical outcomes. Oncologists tend to be somewhere
between these extremes, so the fact that the oncologist feels that there is a 50 percent chance of a cure is pretty good.
Dr. Hoskins is owner of DocuTech Services in Baton Rouge, La. He is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal
Medicine with specialties in small animal pediatrics. Formerly a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana
State University, Hoskins is also the author of clinical textbooks on pediatrics and geriatrics. He founded an Internet service
called "Vet-Web.com", where pet owners can e-mail animal health-related questions and he responds via e-mail. The Internet
address is www.vet-web.com. He can be reached at (225) 955-3252; fax: (214) 242-2200.