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I am so sorry for your loss.
As you are probably aware, a lot of human medical advances have migrated over to be used as treatment for dogs. Oncology (cancer) is one area that it is true.
I was an Oncology Certified Nurse, one of only 15,000 World-wide, for a number of years. The group I worked for was very actively involved in research. We were/they still are involved in a large number of stage 3 trials for both drugs and protocols.
One of the fundamental theories of cancer is that there is an initial failure of the immune system to recognize that first cancer cell - the immune system is supposed to kill it off. So the cell lives, divides and the cancer continues to grow. The researchers also believe that this accounts for people surviving a first cancer, but experieincing a cancer - the immune system is still defective.
Cancer cells vary, based on the origin of the first cell, on how fast they divide. That determines how aggressive the tumor is. No matter where they travel in the body, they are still the same type of cell. Knowing the type of cancer lets you predict where it will go next.
It takes a minimum of a million cells to show up on an Xray, CAT scan or MRI. That is a lot of cells. And the reson that doctors say most cancers are present for several years before we become aware of them. Acute leukemias are the exception because they multiply so rapidly.
So the cancer was there for awhile before you saw any signs of it. Dogs are very good at dealing with and hiding discomfort - if only they could speak to us.
My Bennett had hemangiosarcoma. The first we knew of it, his spleen ruptured. He also had lymphoma. We let him go four days later, when they identified the lymphoma as the reason he was wasn't bouncing back from surgery.