It is estimated that one in three companion animals will die of cancer, which makes understanding the disease and caring for these animals and their families common within our role. Despite this demand, there is limited space in the veterinary nurse curriculum dedicated to cancer and so here we explore the subject in more practical detail.

This course discusses how cancer manifests in the companion animal, how a cancer diagnosis is made and how chemotherapy treatments are administered. Throughout the weekly sessions there are activities and opportunities to test your learning and evaluate how you could introduce some of the practical elements into your practice.

After completing this 4 week online course, the participants will have a greater knowledge and understanding of the basic principles of veterinary oncology and be able to apply this to their own working practices.

Week 1
What is cancer

  • Pathophysiology of neoplasia
  • Common causes of cancer in animals
  • Classifications of cancer types
  • The difference between benign and malignant disease

Learning objectives
After completion of this week, participants should be able to:

  • Understand the alterations in the cell cycle that results in neoplastic disease
  • List the different types of cancer based on tissue origin
  • Describe the different causes of cancer in small animals
  • Explain how benign disease is different to malignant disease and the risks associated with both conditions.
  • Identify higher risk categories of patients and analyse the research available in line with evidence-based-medicine

Week 2 
Diagnosis and prognosis

  • Fine needle aspirates
  • Cancer cytology
  • Cancer staging
  • Specialist tests for cancer

Learning objectives
After completion of this week, participants should be able to:

  • List fine needle aspirate methods to optimise cytological yield
  • Evaluate a cytology sample in-house to ensure sample is of diagnostic quality
  • Understand the commonly preferred methods for staging patients with neoplasia
  • Describe the types of specialist tests required to further categorise cancer
  • Analyse personal skill set and determine if any modifications to current practice would be beneficial

Week 3 
Common chemotherapy agents

  • Overview of common chemotherapy drugs
  • Administering chemotherapy
  • Chemotherapy safety
  • Adverse effects with administering chemotherapy

Learning objectives
After completion of this week, participants should be able to:

  • Understand how chemotherapy agents work
  • Explain how to correctly administer chemotherapy agents
  • List what safety factors should be observed when administering chemotherapy in practice
  • Describe how to manage an extravasation injury and reduce risk of chemotherapy associated nausea and vomiting
  • Evaluate practice protocols to standardise and promote best practice in line with most current information

Week 4
Client and patient support

  • Introduction to oncology clinics
  • Nadir checks
  • Managing adverse-effects following chemotherapy administration
  • The Cancer Journey

Learning objectives
After completion of this week, participants should be able to:

  • Describe how and why a nadir check is performed
  • Identify common adverse effects associated with chemotherapy
  • Understand preventive and interventional treatment protocols for chemotherapy associated adverse effects
  • Explain the causes for likely outcome of treatment failure and the physiology behind this
  • Reflect over professional skill-set and evaluate how you can further enhance your personal development to support clients of patients with cancer

The course will be fully tutored by Nicola Read, and will consist of 10 hours of CPD given in various formats, including tutorials, tasks, case studies, forum discussions and quizzes.