Would you want to know if your pet had cancer? I find this question intriguing and have noticed that some people say yes and some people say no. I know there are many pet parents out there who's first thought on this matter is likely to be yes. They absolutely want to know, no questions asked. So, why wouldn't anyone want to know if their pet had cancer?
|Photo via Hotash|
I'll start by explaining the process of diagnosing those lumps and bumps people find on their pets. Please note that I am generally speaking about skin tumors and not internal tumors.
Let's say you find a new mass under your pet's fur. It's a bit startling and you will probably call your veterinarian for a check-up right away. At the vet's office, they will feel the mass with their hands and might suggest an aspiration.
A mass aspiration is when the vet takes a syringe and needle and pokes it into the mass. They will pull back on the plunger to extract some cells. They can place these cells onto a microscope slide to examine. This typically isn't a method for a definite diagnosis. But if the tumor is only a lipoma (fatty growth), then chances are the vet will easily be able to recognize it before they even put the slide under the microscope. Lipomas generally aren't harmful, unless they grow very large and restrict an animal's movement.
A veterinarian can tell a lot by looking at a growth's cells under a microscope. If they see suspicious cells, they are likely to recommend biopsy or removal of the growth.
Biopsy & Surgical Removal
During a biopsy, the pet will most likely be anesthetized. Although, I have assisted in biopsies where the pet was just sedated. The vet will take a sample of tissue from the suspicious mass and place it in a jar of formaldehyde to send out to a lab for further analysis.
Surgical removal of a mass also will most likely require full anesthesia. Again, I have seen removal of growths while the animal was awake but the growths were very small in these cases. The mass in it's entirety will be placed in a jar of formaldehyde and sent out to the lab.
|Dog under anesthesia for surgery.|
Photo via AmazonCARES
During a surgical mass removal, a veterinarian will go for wide margins. This means that if the tumor is malignant, they don't want to leave any behind.
So as I mentioned, the tissues from biopsies and mass removals will likely be sent out to a lab. A histopathologist that specializes in looking at tissue will examine the samples and can come up with a diagnosis. They can also provide a "grade" for the cancer on a special scale. A histopathologist can also determine whether or not the veterinarian had nice wide margins during surgery and got all of the cancer.
Would You Want to Know If Your Pet Had Cancer?
So now that I've talked about all the details of diagnosing cancer, I return to my original question - would you want to know if your pet had cancer? Why do some people say no?
In some cases, people just want the masses removed and gone. They don't want to know what they are, they just want them off their pet. Ignorance is bliss is the type of thought process going on here I think. Now that the tumor is gone, does it really matter what it was?
Sometimes, pet parents don't have the means to afford a histopathology report. They aren't really cheap. They may have learned from the mass aspiration that the tumor has a high chance of being something bad and just opt to have it removed without a histopath report.
Another variable may be that a mass is causing the animal mobility problems due to its location. This is very common in rats. Some pet parents just want the mass gone so their pet can move freely and comfortably again. Perhaps the pet is a senior and they want them to live out the rest of their days as comfortably as possible.
|A rat with a large mass causing mobility issues due to its location.|
Photo via Teresa Trimm
There are so many variables to the situation, but I'm sure you get the idea. I personally don't think there is a right or wrong answer to the question as long as the pet is being cared for.
So now I'd like to know what you think - would you want to know if your pet had cancer?