Glad to see so many readers these days! Thanks everyone.
I have noticed that there are some misconceptions about dog cancer floating around that perhaps could be clarified a little bit. Specifically, there are things that people are looking at to deduce that their dog’s lump is NOT cancer…but the problem is that some of the reasons (to support a theory that their dog’s growth is “fine”) are not valid.
Here are some classics in the area of:
What Not To Rely On With Certainty
1. Your dog’s behavior. Dogs can have pretty serious health problems and still walk around, eat, be in no apparent pain, etc. Malignant tumors may not show any overall body signs whatsoever. Anyone heard the phrase….”the doctor found a lump in my breast?” Let’s think about this for a minute. The doctor found a lump. The woman was totally unaware there was a lump!! This tells us that you can have a life- threatening cancer going on that is utterly without any overall signs.
2. How the lump feels and looks on a physical examination at the vet’s. Okay, all of us vets have been guilty of feeling a mass and proclaiming the diagnosis (Fatty Tumor! Cyst! Adenoma! or whatever). Folks, the reality is this: a very high percentage of masses with that feel and appearance actually are what they feel like and look like. But, not all of them! If I see 20 dogs with a soft mass under the skin that feels like a fatty tumor, I would not be surprised if one or two were not. I have encountered growths that for all the world feel like fatty tumors (lipomas) and turned out to be mast cell tumors or hemangiopericytomas (nerve sheath tumors), or even sometimes hematomas (blood pockets from some kind of impact or trauma).
Both of these (exam findings and your dog’s behavior) are unreliable. Yes, sometimes we can get a high probability of a diagnosis and everyone is comfortable playing the odds. But consider this: how many of us wear our seat belts and how many of us wreck our cars?
Take home message: make sure you are aware that if you opt against a fine needle aspirate (see the last blog) or a biopsy (see the entry about Bjorn), you are playing an odds game that is not 100% versus 0%. Some of the dogs with masses that look like they are benign growths and will fool everyone. They come back to bite us later.
Best to everyone,