Pet owners often discover lumps and bumps on their pets, and naturally their first question is, “Is it benign or malignant?” You’re understandably fearful of cancer, but let’s clear up one misconception right away: We usually cannot diagnose an unusual lump or bump on sight alone. The proper tests should be performed in order to determine what we’re dealing with.
In order to do that, we will perform either a cytology or a biopsy. Each method of investigation has its pros and cons, and we will perform the one that is most appropriate for your pet and their situation.
A cytology is a minimally invasive procedure that we can perform quickly with a simple needle and syringe where we obtain cells from the mass and submit them on slides to be read by a pathologist. We can receive rapid results typically in 2-3 days so that we can quickly move on to treatment if necessary.
However, there are certain disadvantages to performing a cytology. The samples obtained are not always perfectly reliable, and they cannot tell to what extent a tumor has invaded surrounding tissue. And because some lumps don’t exfoliate (shed cells) well, sometimes a proper sample cannot be obtained.
By contrast, a biopsy involves the surgical removal of the lump, after which it can be examined for malignancy. Sedationand/or anesthesia is usually required, and the process is more invasive. While it takes longer to receive a report, the results are highly accurate and the pathologist can tell us whether the lump is malignant or benign. We can also discover whether the tumor has spread into surrounding tissues.
In many cases lumps turn out to be relatively mundane situations. But we always want to double check, just to be sure, so that we can hopefully catch any serious diseases early when they are more easily treated. If you do discover something on your cat or dog that arouses your suspicions, please call us for an appointment right away so that we can discuss your options.