DYK: All lumps are not equal

skin-tumorAs you stroke your dog you feel a small lump over your dog’s shoulder. What should you do? Unfortunately the moSkin tumor in a dogst common approach by both caretakers and many veterinarians is take the wait and see approach. According to what Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology) writes ‘If a lump is 1 cm { 1 cm = 1 green pea} or has been there more than 1 month get it check ASAP.” Getting it check does not mean have a veterinarian feel the lump and tell you that the lump is not a concern because it feels like a benign growth. The odds are many times by chance, not by feeling, the veterinarian is going to be right, but when there is an error your pet suffers. After nearly four decades of feeling lumps, I have not reached the point where I can assure you by fell whether a lump is benign or malignant. While caretakers want to hear it is not a concern, providing false assurance without proper evaluation is wrong. A certain number of these benign feeling lumps turn out to be malignant tumors that by the time they are recognized are much larger and difficult to treat. A 1 cm growth is much easier to remove with wide skin margins than a 10 cm growth.

Common mistakes caretaker make about lumps

Beware of drawing the conclusion that the lump has been there a long time therefore, is not a concern. While many times this is true I have seen these lumps sit quietly until some unknown factor activates them. Before you realize it a malignant cancer has awaken and is going wild.

Beware of drawing the conclusion that multiple lumps that look similar are the same. I have seen lumps that look and feel identical with one lump being benign while the other is malignant. Each lump should be evaluated independently of the other.

There are multiple techniques for evaluating lumps including fine needle aspirates, wedge biopsy and excisional biopsy. The easiest and most common screening procedure for lumps and bumps used by many veterinarians is a fine needle aspirate. In the majority of the cases fine needle aspirates are performed without any type of sedation. A needle is inserted into the growth and a small sample of cells are drawn from the lump. There is not any more pain than getting a shot associated with this technique. After performing a needle aspirate the following possible information is available.

  • Many aspirates yield cells that enable identifying the tumor type. When the type of tumor is identified immediately the risk factors for malignancy are known.
  • Some aspirates may not allow the identify the tumor type but yet still allow determination if the characteristics of malignancy are present. This aids in determining the risk factors of the lump and developing a treatment plan.
  • A few aspirates yield few to no cells giving a nondiagnostic sample. However the lack of yield often provide important information. Skin growths that do not yield cells are most often sacroma, malignant tumors. The lack of cell yield always should have further evaluation with wedge biopsy or incisional biopsy followed by histopathology.

Needle aspirates are an inexpensive method of obtaining valuable information about lumps and bumps that may prove to be life saving.

The sit and watch method may allow a maligant lump to spread at your pet’s expense that could be eliminated. It is better to do something than do nothing. Have all lumps checked for yours pet’s health.