Sarah A. Santiago, DVM, MS
Have you recently noticed a small bump on Fluffy’s eyelid or a large movable lump on Maggie’s hip that has you concerned. Those pesky bumps and lumps are worth mentioning during their next physical examination with your family veterinarian. There are various factors that we consider in our recommendations for further care for those bumps and lumps. Sometimes we will simply have you monitor the area for any changes. Other times we will urge you to consider surgical removal if we feel it is medically necessary for the health of your pet.
The location of a tumor is often one of the most important pieces of information obtained during a physical examination. Certain tumors grow in specific areas such as various tumors of the mouth or inside the eye. The mobility of a tumor, as well as the size and shape, are significant factors to consider. Some tumors such as benign lipomas can stay on a pet for many years and not cause any health problems. At times lipomas can grow to be the size of a grapefruit or larger and affect how your pet lies down or walks and thus should be addressed. The time frame and extent of tumor growth are vital pieces of information to relay to your pet’s doctor. For example, a tiny wart-like lesion may appear on your pet’s back and only be a nuisance during grooming times for the duration of his or her life.
Tumor mapping is often done to monitor multiple lumps over the course of several months to years. Tumor details are recorded in a pet’s medical records for future reference. A fine needle aspirate can be taken of a mass which involves the use of a needle to collect cells from the inside of a tumor. The samples collected are reviewed under a microscope to identify the cell types making up the mass. Cytology at times can be used to diagnose a tumor without the need for a biopsy. Many tumors do not shed cells well and thus a core biopsy may be needed. This involves removing only a piece of tumor for analysis. Another common procedure is a lumpectomy or tumor excision surgery. The tissue retrieved during either procedure is sent to a laboratory for special analyses. The laboratory report is invaluable in determining the next course of action with regards to additional diagnostics or further treatments. Additional diagnostics may include thoracic radiographs, further blood tests, an abdominal ultrasound, lymph node aspirates, chemotherapy, and more. So the next time a tiny bump or large lump may appear it is best to notify your veterinarian of its presence so that it may be handled appropriately and in a timely manner.