Mast cell tumours are a relatively common type of cancer found in dogs and occasionally in cats. They are often quick growing and found on or just under the skin, they can look like just about any other mass so ideally all new masses should be examined and tested. Several breeds are pre-disposed to developing these including Boxers and Golden Retrievers.
Testing of mast cell tumours is relatively easy, quick and inexpensive. A fine needle is used to collect a few cells from the mass which are stained and looked at under a microscope. This can be done in 15 minutes and the cells very often have a very characteristic appearance with many purple staining granules in the cytoplasm (body) of the cell.
Mast cell tumours have the potential to be very malignant but the good news is that most are not and can be treated easily. They are often classified into one of three grades with grade 1 being the most benign. Surgical removal of the mass with suitable margins is usually indicated for most of these tumours. The cancerous cells can extend well beyond the visible edges of the tumour so it is important to get the tumours looked at by a pathologist to assess the grade and extent of the tumour.
In most cases, surgical removal is curative. However, in a few cases where surgery is not possible, where the cancer has been incompletely removed or where the tumour is so malignant it is likely to spread then other treatments can be used. These include Radiation Therapy and Chemotherapy. Recently a new class of drug has been made available that targets receptors on the surface of the cancer cells with promising early results.
Treating cancer in general can be difficult and sometimes heartbreaking. However, treating mast cell tumours is often very rewarding due to the relative ease of diagnosis and the range of effective treatments available to the veterinary surgeon.
Contact us at one of our clinics for more information. Our number is 0208 977 3955 (Teddington), 01932 229 900 (Shepperton) and 0208 390 5270 (Surbiton).