Oncology education urgently needed says WSAVA survey - Veterinary Practice
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Oncology education urgently needed says WSAVA survey

Veterinary healthcare team members rated their knowledge of oncology at just five out ten in a recent survey by the newly formed World Small Animal Veterinary Association Oncology Working Group

Veterinary professionals globally rate their knowledge of oncology at just five out ten, according to survey from the newly formed World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Oncology Working Group (WOW).

The average score varied by language, with Chinese-speaking respondents rating their knowledge at the highest level (6.6) and Ukrainian-speaking respondents the lowest at 4.2. In contrast, respondents ranked the actual importance of oncology cases for their practice at seven out of ten, with minimal variation (6.3-7.7) between languages.

Almost 2,000 veterinary professionals from around the world (with 95 percent of respondents being veterinarians) completed the survey in ten languages, during September and October 2021. The survey’s results will help the WOW Group prioritize its efforts to educate and support WSAVA members globally in raising standards of care for veterinary oncology patients.

Respondents were also asked to rank the most common tumor types seen in their practice (with multiple answers possible in this section). The most common answer was mammary tumor (81 percent); followed by skin tumor 75 percent; abdominal tumor 40 percent, malignant lymphoma 39 percent, and other tumors 5 percent. As limited numbers of North American, African and Oceanic veterinary professionals participated in the survey, this result may not fully reflect regional differences. For instance, in parts of the world, mammary tumor incidence is lower because of a culture of early neutering.

Surgery was the most common therapy used in private practice at 55 percent, followed by surgery and adjuvant therapy in 30 percent of cases, chemotherapy in 7 percent and palliative care in 4 percent. Immediate euthanasia was recommended in 1 percent of cases.

While chemotherapy is only currently used by 7 percent of respondents, when asked which educational resources would be most valuable to them chemotherapy protocols were requested by 82 percent. In addition, 53 percent asked for information on tumor staging, support with cytology was requested by 51 percent, information on treatment side-effects by 38 percent. Advice on surgical margins was requested by 36 percent with advice on radiation therapy requested by 24 percent and advice on palliative care by 6 percent.

“Cancer is increasingly common in companion animals, with almost 50 percent of dogs over 10 years of age developing this devastating disease. To support WSAVA members effectively in treating oncology patients, we wanted to know where they needed help most urgently,” explained Dr Jolle Kirpensteijn, former WSAVA president and member of the WOW Group. “Our survey is the largest the WSAVA has ever conducted and shows the reach of this well-respected association, which works to share best practice in companion animal veterinary care around the world.”

He added: “It is salutary to see the huge demand for veterinary oncology education all over the world. We have much to do but are excited at the opportunity to support WSAVA members and to offer new hope to oncology patients and their owners globally.”

WOW Group Secretary Dr Ann Hohenhaus, who practices oncology at the Animal Medical Center in New York City, added: “We will use social media, webinars and a range of other channels to ensure maximum reach for the educational tools and resources we are developing.

“Based on the results of the survey, we have already adapted the focus of our stream during the 2022 WSAVA World Congress in Lima, Peru, to focus on mammary tumors – but there is much more to come before then so stay tuned!”

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