Dr. Phil Zeltzman’s Blog
Weez, a cute 12 year old Cockapoo, had a swelling under her left armpit (aka the axilla).
No signs were present otherwise: she was eating, drinking and acting normally.
Since the swelling continued to grow, her owner wisely went to see his family vet. She diagnosed a mass of unknown origin.
The vet (again, wisely), recommended surgery to remove it and biopsy it.
The suspicion, based on experience, the location of the mass and its fast growth, suggested that it was likely a cancerous mass (soft tissue sarcoma, nerve sheath tumor, lymphoma etc.). In addition, there was a chance that it involved some important nerves in the armpit (aka the brachial plexus).
Since those nerves cannot be sacrificed, we discussed a small possibility of amputation.
A physical exam and blood work confirmed than Weez was a good candidate for anesthesia.
To my relief, my own exam revealed that there was no need to sacrifice the leg!
So we removed the mass uneventfully, and it as sent to the lab for analysis.
Weez recovered smoothly from anesthesia and surgery, and went home.
Her activity had to be restricted and she had to wear a cone (E-collar) around her beck for 3 weeks. She was also given oral antibiotics and pain medications.
One week later, the results of the biopsy were shocking – in a fantastic way!
Amazingly, the mass was benign! It is called a fibroma, which is a non-cancerous tumor, and very unusual in that location.
There is still a small risk that the tumor can come back, so I asked Weez’s owner to monitor the area by feeling it monthly.
Weez’s owner was ecstatic. He wrote: “Cannot be any happier and blessed to have had Dr. Zeltzman operate on our girl. He was able to remove a tumor and save her leg from being amputated.”
This story reminds me that board-certified cancer specialists (oncologists) and surgeons have 2 similar sayings:
* The 3 deadliest words in the English language are “Just watch it” and
* The 5 deadliest words in the English language are “Keep an eye on it.”
What we mean by that is size doesn’t matter when it comes to masses.
A tiny mass the size of a grain of rice can be cancer.
Bottom line: even though this mass was luckily benign, it is important to remove masses as soon as possible. Have your family vet check your cat or your dog as soon as you notice any lump or bump, so that they can guide you through the next steps.
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified
Bruiser is a nine-year-old Boston Terrier mix who was having some discomfort in his hind end. His owners took him to see his family vet. A rectal exam revealed a firm mass just below the anus, hidden under the skin. Surgery was recommended to remove and biopsy the mass.
This surgery can be a bit tricky. The mass needs to be removed entirely, within healthy tissue to “get it all” or have clean margins. Yet we can’t be overly aggressive! We need to preserve the anus and more importantly, the muscles around it, which are responsible for continence.
Surgery at Brodheadsville Veterinary Clinic went very well. Bruiser had to wear a plastic cone around his head for three weeks. He went home with pain medications and antibiotics. The mass was sent out for biopsy.
The biopsy came back a week later…benign! It was a perianal gland adenoma, a common tumor in this area.
Bruiser is lucky his owners decided to remove the mass while it was fairly small. Removing a larger mass would be much more invasive. Early detection and a good decision from Bruiser’s owners made the surgery and recovery much smoother for Bruiser!
Quinton is an 8 year old Pug, who had a small open wound that would not heal despite antibiotics.
Quinton’s vet, instead of ignoring the wound, decided to test it. Under the microscope, the cells looked like Quinton could have a mast cell tumor! Mast cells are normal white blood cells that can occasionally cause a tumor. In fact, it’s one of the most common skin tumors. However, they typically appear as a lump or bump, not as an open wound.
I performed surgery at Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital and removed a very large portion of his right upper lip and small section of the left upper lip.
It is very important to remove enough tissue around a tumor in the hopes of getting it all.
The lab confirmed a mast cell tumor. There are 3 grades describing severity of the tumors: 1 is good, 3 is bad. Quinton had a grade 2 mast cell tumor, which we fortunately removed entirely.
Never neglect open wounds! You never know what they can be hiding.