It is important to tell whether or not a dog tumor has spread internally.
This question is not only very frightening for a dog lover, but also has some real medical ramifications. So let’s take some time with this concept and mast cell tumors.
Mast cell tumors are very common in dogs. They come in three grades (1, 2, or 3). Although they are all considered “potentially malignant”, the odds are that most grade 1 mast cell tumors are benign.
However, many grade 2 and all grade 3 are malignant and can be life-threatening.
Different cancers have their favorite spots to spread. Some spread to nearby locations, in the surrounding area next door to the tumor. This is called local invasion. Some other cancers spread in the circulation, which is called metastasis. Some do a little of both.
These cancer cells have certain areas where they like to go. The preferences seem to be created by cross-talk between the outside of the cancer “seed” cell and the area the cell settles in (the “soil”). For more, click here and here.
Now, if we take mast cell tumors as an example, first we need to get our data. We need to have found out that we are dealing with a mast cell tumor, and whether this tumor is a high grade 2 or a 3. These have high metastatic rates. For this reason, a biopsy should be done on mast cell tissue surgically removed to get the grade.
Once we know we have a mast cell tumor and the grade, we need to start the steps outlined in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide. First, maintain composure so you can best cope most effectively with this news. Next, get your data and contemplate the different treatments available discussed in the Guide.
These include diet, chemo, surgery, radiation, immune support, life quality enhancement, supplements like Apocaps and others, pain control, antihistamines, antimetastatic treatments, and so forth. This analysis is done with help from your conventional vet, oncologist, and/or integrative vet primarily.
Now, the question that quickly arises is whether the tumor has spread or not. It turns out that mast cell tumors have what is called a “tropism” or a preferential movement or attraction, towards certain organs. These include first the spleen, then the liver, and also the lymph nodes and bone marrow.
Some areas of the body are visualized pretty well with X-rays. These include mainly bones, some other orthopedic structures, and the lungs.
However, the soft tissues like the spleen and liver are best seen with an ultrasound. This is the tool that is used in pregnant women to evaluate developing babies.
So please make sure that when your dog has a mast cell tumor that has the potential for internal spread, ask for an ultrasound!
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.
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