A very common thing we see at the vet clinic, lumps and bumps. A pet is brought in for their yearly exam and one is found, or the owner was petting Bella and found this abnormal lump. So you now ask, what should I do?
Well the biggest thing- as soon as you notice a bump- have it checked out! I strongly encourage you not to wait to see if it changes, grows, or goes away. The smaller a lump is- the easier removal is, the earlier you are catching it, and less chances of metastasis (spread)- just to name a few!
A lump is something abnormal on your pet, or else you wouldn’t be concerned about it. The age old question is should I have it removed?- My answer possibly. The first thing with any mass is to discuss the concerns with your veterinarian (size, color, location, any concerning appearances). A vet can not tell you what a lump is just by touching it. Yes we can get a good idea based on how it looks and feels, but that is still not a definitive diagnosis. Bumps can masks themselves- and you may think it is one thing, but it turns out to be something else.
Any time a lump is found, first have it examined. Next- you need to find out what it is. There are a few ways to do that. First- a fine needle aspirate. This involves the animal being awake (so no anesthesia), a small needle/syringe, slides, and a microscope. A very small sample is taken with the needle and put onto a slide. The slide is evaluated under a microscope to look at what cells are seen in the bump. Sometimes this needs to be sent off to be evaluated by a cytologist to get a better idea of what you are dealing with. The good part about this- no anesthesia and quick. The bad part- it doesn’t always give us an answer- sometimes more information (like a biopsy) is needed.
That brings us to our next option- a biopsy. A biopsy involves taking a small section of the lump and sending it to be analyzed. The good aspects of this- more information can be formed as to what the lump is for a more definitive diagnosis and it is often a small incision= less healing time. The bad aspects- if it comes back as something that should be completely removed- you may have anesthesia twice. This does involve anesthesia- which is also a negative for some as well.
Finally, complete removal. This is often what is personally recommend if we are going to do anesthesia. The lump is then completely removed- so no concerns if you need to go back in after a biopsy. You can also send off the whole lump for analysis, so you can still identify what it is. This does also involve anesthesia, a larger incision than a biopsy, and if the mass is in a bad location- sometimes getting it all can be extremely difficult.
So- if you find something on your animal that wasn’t there the day before- have it checked out! Bumps and lumps can grow and spread very quickly if it is something serious, as well as tumor masking themselves to look and feel benign- but are not. As Dr. Sue, Cancer Vet, always says- Don’t wait, Aspirate!