Whether animal or human, when it comes to cancer, early detection is key. For the caring pet owner, finding a lump or growth on your dog is cause for immediate concern. For a veterinarian, any abnormal lump or bump is medically considered a tumor, whether malignant or benign. A good veterinarian is just as concerned as you.
Different forms of cancer or tumors have different names. Blastoma is the general name for a particular type of tumor that is thought to arise from embryotic tissue. Most, but not all, are cancerous. The word blastoma is a term that is used in conjunction with a prefix that identifies a location of this particular type of tumor. For example, medulloblastoma is a brain tumor. Retinoblastoma is a tumor of the retina of the eye. In dogs, just like humans, these tumors can develop anywhere in the body, including liver, kidney, bone or nervous system. They have different prefixes, but end in “blastoma.”
Benign versus Malignant
Throughout a dog’s body, cells die and regrow countlessly throughout his lifetime. Healthy cells reduplicate in an ordered pattern, and leave exact clones of themselves behind. Malignant cells are mutated cells that grow at an extraordinary rate destroying the healthy tissue in its path. These cells can metastasize to establish colonies in other areas of the body, and these are life-threatening. Benign tumors are typically slow growing and do not invade neighboring tissue. For ones that are benign, surgical removal of the entire tumor is often corrective.
Hepatoblastoma are tumors of the liver. Nephroblastoma are tumors of the kidney. Blastomas have many homes. One in particular, like other forms of cancer is the easiest to notice. Trichoblastoma are skin tumors, and they are usually benign. Although they were once categorized as basal cell tumors, they have since been reclassified. They usually arise in areas of hair loss or hyperpigmentation, and certain breeds are predisposed to them. Veterinarians typically recommend they be surgically removed, so they can be distinguished from mass cell tumors or melanomas.
When It's Invisible
Most tumors in dogs are spotted during physical examination, whether by a veterinarian or an observant owner. Testicular, mammary or lymph node tumors are usually discovered with palpation. Bone tumors produce significant limping, and tumors of the spinal cord or brain present neurologically. However, unlike skin growths, lumps beneath the skin or prominent symptoms, the effects of internal types of blastoma or other cancers are harder to spot. Tumors of the liver, spleen or intestinal tract are often advanced before suspected or diagnosed. Radiographs or ultrasound play a key role in their early detection.
- Dean Golja/Digital Vision/Getty Images