If you aren’t in the habit of inspecting your pet’s body regularly, it is hard to know how long a new lump or bump has been there. As a general rule, any lump you notice, if it is bigger than a pea or changing in size, shape, color, or consistency, it needs to be checked right away.
The good news is: most lumps and bumps on our pets are benign (not cancerous). The bad news: just because a pet has had lots of benign lumps doesn’t mean the next one won’t be cancer. Unfortunately, although we might have a very good guess, we can’t tell what something is just by looking. We need to get a sample of cells to examine under a microscope. There is no other way to know for certain whether a lump is benign or malignant. Often, this sample can be obtained as a Fine Needle Aspirate, which isn’t expensive and doesn’t require anesthesia. In some cases, a biopsy is needed.
Some of the most common non-cancerous lumps we see are cysts, skin tags, and benign tumors such as sebaceous adenomas, lipomas, and trichoblastomas. Typically, these are not removed unless they are impeding the pet or affecting quality of life in some way.
But what if it is cancer? This is where early detection is key! Many types of skin and subcutaneous (under the skin) cancers can be cured if removed early in the disease process, while they are still small. Not only are we more likely to cure it if we catch it early, early detection often means cheaper treatment with a more favorable outcome.
The sooner we know, the sooner we can act!