National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Every year, hundreds of thousands of women are diagnosed with breast cancer.  Early detection and treatment has been key in prolonging and saving thousands of lives. Just as in humans, our canine and feline counterparts also battle breast cancer, which is more commonly referred to as mammary cancer in pets. With pets, prevention and early detection is just as critical in prolonging survival times after diagnosis. One in four dogs who are not spayed and go through one heat cycle will develop mammary tumors. Spaying before 6 months of age can lead to over 90% reduction in risk for mammary cancer!!!

Cat and dogWhile prevention is ideal, early identification is also critical. The size of the tumor at the time of removal greatly influences the survival time. This is just one of the many reasons why a thorough annual or biannual physical exam is important. Since animals can’t tell us when a bump is bothering them and even try to hide any underlying ailments, we have to pay extra close attention to our pets. Owners should be accustomed to feeling for nodules or bumps on their pets. Normal mammary glands are soft and squishy. There should be no firm bumps.  Mammary tumors will often start as firm, pea sized masses but can progress to larger, ulcerated masses. If you notice a bump or nodule on your pet, have it examined by a veterinarian.  Your veterinarian will either take a fine needle aspirate (stick a needle in the mass to obtain cells to look at under a microscope) to get a diagnosis or recommend removing the mass and sending it to a pathologist for evaluation. The pathologist will tell us what type of tumor it is and the grade (severity) of the tumor. While surgical removal is the initial treatment of choice, radiation and/or chemotherapy may also be recommended depending on the tumor type, grade, and location.

Bottom line: To give your cat or dog the best chance at a long, healthy life, have your pet spayed before their first heat cycle and have your pet thoroughly examined by a veterinarian at least once a year! For more information on breast cancer or mammary cancer in pets, contact us to speak with a veterinarian.