I found a lump… Calli’s Story

As November draws to an end so does Pet Cancer Awareness Month.  We wanted to share with you one of our patient’s story:

What happens when you are petting your animal or grooming them and you notice a lump?  It wasn’t there a month ago and suddenly there it is?  Sometimes, something that seems small and not much of anything can turn out to be something pretty major, just ask Calli…

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by: Dr. Jo-Ann Liebe

Calli is a 14-year-old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.  She came to the clinic in May for a routine physical.  Her owner had noted a mass inside her right elbow first noticed one month previously.  The mass was not bothering her or unusual.  It was about 1cm in size but since few masses can be diagnosed by visual inspection, fine needle biopsy was done for initial screening.  This test is done in clinic with results usually available before the pet leaves the clinic if it does not require an additional opinion from the pathologist.  At this point many skin masses can be diagnosed as benign cysts or lipomes and no treatment may be needed so observation and monitoring is all that is required.  That was not the case for Calli however.  She had a mast cell tumour (MCT) diagnosable in clinic.  These masses can vary from low grade, slow growing to aggressively spreading and invasive.

Surgery was scheduled for the following week.  In the following 6 days before surgery the mass had almost doubled in size… a discussion about the potential prognosis, complications and options ensued due to the rapid growth.  We decided to proceed with removing the mass with the largest margins  (area cut around the mass) possible that didn’t include limb amputation.  Overall the surgery went well with some loss of muscle tissues along with the mass.

The mass was placed in formalin and sent to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon for final grading and margin assessment.   The report was available a few days later with bad news… the mass was Grade III (the highest) and some cells were present at the deep margin – meaning all the MCT cells had not been removed during surgery.  Chemotherapy and possibly limb amputation were further options for treatment.  Both Calli’s owner and I decided that such aggressive management may not be the best choice for her at her age.  So we opted for oral prednisone and observation for recurrence or spread.

Post Surgery

Post Surgery

Fortunately it has been 6 months since the surgery and Calli is still going strong with no sign of the tumour!

The best treatment for skin and soft tissue masses is early diagnosis and surgical excision.  Some masses can even be removed with a local anesthetic and no hospital stay if they are small and in a good location.  It is important to note that not all bad tumours are large or painful.  Even a very tiny mass can metastasize (spread to other areas), so the simple initial exam and fine needle biopsy can help us to get a better idea of what the mass is so we can plan if surgery is needed or we can safely leave it alone.

Calli was very lucky to have had her mass assessed early.  Another week or two with that rapid growth and removal may no longer have been an option.

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Update from Calli’s owner (November 12, 2013): We just came in and Calli was out chasing a few balls.  I am so grateful, she is 14 1/2 years old and doing very well.

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