EL PASO, Texas -- An El Paso Zoo elephant who has waged a courageous battle for four years against an unusual cancer will now undergo complex surgery in the hopes of saving her life, zoo officials announced Thursday.
Juno, one of two Asian elephants at the zoo, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. Since then, she's undergone six electro-chemotherapy treatments - but recently officials said the tumor stopped responding and the cancer may have metastasized.
"According to veterinary experts, surgical removal of the mass or hospice care and eventual euthanasia are the only options now available. Staff has decided to attempt surgical removal in a final effort to treat the cancer and prolong Juno’s life," the zoo said in a statement.
A board-certified veterinary surgeon who specializes in operating on large animals surgery will perform the high-risk surgery later this week along with the assistance of zoo veterinarians.
El Paso Zoo Director Joe Montisano explained that at 53-years of age, Juno is considered a geriatric elephant which poses significant potential for complications with a surgery of this type.
“We are asking the community to please keep Juno in your thoughts and trust the El Paso Zoo is doing everything in its power to heal her, make her comfortable and to give her many more years on this planet,” Montisano said.
Officials also noted that Juno has the only known case of breast cancer in an elephant. In addition, zoologists say the world's largest land mammals generally aren't diagnosed with any form of cancer.