Health & Research

Understanding Cancer in Golden Retrievers

By Rhonda Hovan

25_DogHug[1]About forty years ago, my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. Back then, no one talked about breast cancer, as if there were some shame in the diagnosis. In fact, no one talked about cancer much at all – and when conversation was necessary, it was in hushed voices. Amazingly, the “C” word was actually withheld sometimes even from the patient. This was a time when cancer was a private family matter, not a community health issue.

Then in 1973, President Nixon declared “war on cancer,” and a year later First Lady Betty Ford announced publicly that she had breast cancer. Those two events were pivotal in changing public attitudes toward cancer. For perhaps the first time, talk of cancer became acceptable, and the veil of shame was lifted. Those acts of breaking the silence helped to transform the fear of cancer into action, and represented the beginning of over thirty years of incredible progress against cancer in people.

But when I talk with breeders about cancer in Goldens, sometimes I get the feeling that we have not quite broken the silence about cancer in dogs. Some breeders and owners still consider it a private matter, and we have not yet fully turned the fear into action against this disease in our breed. But I think we are on the brink of making that leap, and I hope this column will help to bring this disease into the light of day, and to dispel the shame, secrecy, and finger-pointing that serves only to impede progress.

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