Wilson is an outdoor guy. He loves winter, hiking, and swimming, all the things that life in Colorado provides.

“He’s just here to please,” said Helen French, Wilson’s mom, who adopted him from a shelter in Salt Lake City when he was a few months old.

Today, the 10-year-old Lab mix shares his home with his four-legged brother and human family, including a new baby sister named Poppy.

“He’s always been a healthy and happy boy,” said French.

In early 2021, swelling around Wilson’s left eye didn’t seem cause for major concern for the otherwise healthy pup. After a trip to the veterinarian and a round of antibiotics, the irritation cleared.

Eight months later, the swelling returned. This time, a surgeon performed a biopsy, and Wilson was diagnosed with sinonasal sarcoma.

“Hearing that diagnosis was very scary; it was a big shock,” said French.

The Denver-area veterinary surgeon recommended the French family visit CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center for treatment options.

Hard Decisions

“I’m a physician assistant and see people with cancers of the blood every day,” said French. “I know what people go through. I wasn’t sure I wanted to put Wilson through that. I didn’t know how treatment translated to dogs.”

After looking at the FACC website and reading other patient stories, French decided to schedule an appointment.

“I was really grateful we were able to get in so quickly,” said French.

At their first appointment, French met with radiation oncology resident Dr. Patricia Gualtieri, who explained treatment options and the next steps.

Sinonasal cancer accounts for approximately one percent of all cancer in dogs. However, according to Gualtieri, it is a common tumor type treated by the FACC’s radiation oncology service. Radiation therapy is considered the treatment of choice for tumors in this specific site. With stereotactic radiation therapy, Gualtieri shared that the prognosis is typically 12-18 months.

“Radiation therapy offers the advantage of treating the entire nasal cavity affected, including bone and bulky tumor located near organs like eyes and brain that are very challenging to address with surgery,” said Gualtieri.

In Wilson’s case, the slight swelling on the outside of his eye was the “tip of the iceberg,” with more extensive tumor showing up on CT, which is often the case with these tumors.

Treatment and Recovery

French elected to proceed with stereotactic radiation, which began the next day. Wilson completed three days of radiation therapy and recovered well after a few days of rest and pain control. By the time of his two-week recheck, the swelling was gone.

“Dr. Gualtieri and her team are very compassionate, genuine, and were great at communicating with me during the whole process,” said French. “I so appreciated we didn’t have to waste any time in helping him feel better.”

“Wilson is a terrific patient,” said Gualtieri. “He was excited and happy throughout treatment. We all quickly came to love him!”

A month after treatment, Wilson experienced rhinitis, which is common, but it cleared after starting medication. Today, according to Gualtieri, Wilson is doing great! He will return for a CT in a few months to assess the tumor’s response to radiation.

“We are so grateful that Wilson is doing well and that we will have more quality time together,” said French. “I hope that Wilson’s story will help other families feel comfortable seeking treatment for their pets. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I want people to know it was worth it.”