After taking your pet to the groomers, it’s not uncommon to notice a mass, lump, or bump on your pet. With the hair clipped back, it can be alarming to see or feel a mass you may have not noticed before. If this sounds like you, read on to learn more about common lumps or bumps and when to seek veterinary attention.
There are five common diagnoses we see when looking at a mass. Let's explore…
Types of Masses
These are particularly common in cats due to fighting. When there is an abscess, there may be some discharge. The mass may also feel fluid-filled and can be painful when touched.
Granuloma is a buildup of inflammatory cells around a foreign material to try to isolate it from the body. Whilst a granuloma is not generally a cause for concern, it may need to be removed surgically if problematic.
A haematoma is when blood vessels burst and form a swelling. Haematomas will disappear with time but can take a month or so to resolve.
A cyst is an abnormal pocket of fluid, like a blister. Cysts are lined with cells that produce fluid or discharge. This builds up and sometimes bursts out. This means that these can fluctuate in size but they always reform. Cysts will need to be removed surgically if causing your pet issues.
Tumour or Cancer:
This is the category that people fear the most and we will talk about this in more detail. Tumours come in 2 forms- benign and malignant.
Benign means slow growing and slow to spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
Malignant tumours are faster growing and more aggressive so quicker to spread.
Diagnosing the Mass
When presented with a mass, it is likely your veterinarian will want to do some further tests to diagnose the cause. This involves taking what is called a fine needle aspirate from the area. In a fine needle aspirate, your vet will put a needle into the mass and take out some cells. Around 80% of masses can be diagnosed using this technique. However, if the nature of the mass cannot be diagnosed this way, then further testing may be needed.
Depending on the mass, your vet may also want to perform surgery to remove the mass entirely (with adequate margins - this means an area around the mass that is clear of the tumour cells and can make the surgical field larger than you might expect) or in a partial removal (this is called an excisional biopsy). If this is the case, the mass will then be sent to an external laboratory where they will diagnose what it is, whether it has been removed entirely, and if it is a benign or malignant tumour.
If cancer is suspected, your vet may also take samples from the lymph nodes in the area close to the mass. This is called staging and is a way of working out how far the cancer has spread. Your vet may also need to perform further diagnostics like x-rays, ultrasound scans, or MRIs to investigate the spread of the disease.
Once the diagnosis of the mass has been made, your vet will be able to give you more information about further treatment options depending on the type of mass. Treatment (for malignant tumours) could include further surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy. However, in some cases, hospice care and timely euthanasia may be recommended. For benign cancer, close monitoring or regular checkups may be sufficient.
As you can see the outcomes are quite different depending on what type of lump or bump your pet has, so seeking veterinary attention is important. Don’t always assume the worst but be guided by your vet as to the level of intervention needed!
Has your vet diagnosed your pet with an inoperable tumour? Contact us on 08000495944 today to discuss end-of-life care.