Sarah, a 13-year-old brown Tabby, was surrendered to AHS when her owner encountered a hardship. As Sarah was being examined by the Arizona Humane Society's Second Chance Animal Hospital™ team it was discovered that she had mammary carcinomas due to not being spayed when she was younger. Fortunately, Arizona Humane Society veterinarians were able to entirely remove the masses during surgery and the histopathology showed that the tumors were low-grade and had not spread. While there is always the possibility of a re-occurrence, Sarah is now up for adoption at our Sunnyslope campus with a medical release for her new family and their veterinarian to monitor her condition.
October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month is not only for people, but also for pets. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), cancer is the number one natural cause of death in pets. One cancer often disregarded in dogs and cats is mammary gland cancer, or breast cancer, and is one of the most common cancers in canines, making up 53 percent of all malignant tumors. 85 percent of mammary tumors in cats, compared to 50-60 percent of mammary tumors in dogs, are malignant with a significant risk of metastasis, or spreading to other parts of the body.
The most important thing a person can do for their pet is to get them spayed and do it early. The likelihood of getting mammary (breast) cancer increases with each heat cycle. Spaying a dog before her first heat or a cat before one year of age will help decrease the potential for mammary cancer by nearly 100 percent.
Pet owners should do breast exams on their female dogs and cats in a similar fashion as human breast exams. Check for signs of firm lumps in the tissue around the nipples, ulcerated (raw) skin, swelling on or around the nipples and/or discharge from the nipples.
Diagnosis will typically include a surgical tissue biopsy, blood CBC/chemistry and urine testing as well as a chest X-ray to determine whether the disease has spread.
The cornerstone of treatment is the removal of the tumor(s), and while chemotherapy/radiation therapy is not often prescribed in dogs, chemotherapy for cats comes highly recommended due to the aggressive nature of the disease.
Prognosis is dependent on the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and lungs. However, breast cancer in pets is highly preventable by spaying one’s pet early.