Picture this… You’re sitting on the couch with your dog or cat, giving them a mini-massage and lots of love. Suddenly, you feel something lumpy and bumpy under their fur. What is that? Is it anything we need to worry about? There is no way to tell from the outside what kind of “bump” it is. Nor can this be discovered by “feel.” There are several types of “bumps” that are non-threatening — fatty masses or even cysts. But is it benign or malignant? There’s only one way to find out!
If you bring your pet in for an exam at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital, our doctor will make sure to give your pet a full physical evaluation. The veterinarian will take a look at the lump and probably recommend a Fine Needle Aspirate. This is a minimally invasive procedure (done with your pet awake) where the doctor puts a small (vaccine sized) needle into that lump. They are able to pull out some cells, place those onto a microscope slide, and then evaluate the sample. By looking at what type of cells are present, the vet can diagnose your pet’s tumor and discuss the findings with you.
There are many tricky types of cancer that can look and feel like other things. Maybe it just feels fatty or fluid-filled. The only way to know for sure is to look at a sample under the microscope. It’s worth your peace of mind to know EXACTLY what that growth is. That let’s you know what needs to be done about it. As in human medicine, undiagnosed areas of cancerous cells will spread very rapidly if left untreated.
Is any special preparation required before collecting the sample?
For routine sampling of lumps and bumps on the body surface, there is usually no special preparation required, although a simple disinfectant like alcohol may be applied to the skin prior to sample collection. However, when samples are collected from internal organs (during an ultrasound, during which the pet is usually anesthetized or sedated) or need to be tested for bacteria, sterile surgical technique must be used during collection and handling of the sample. This involves shaving the fur, cleaning and disinfecting the skin, and wearing surgical gloves etc., just as would be done in preparation for surgery.
Is cytology by FNA always diagnostic?
Cytology by FNA is not always diagnostic, but in those cases where the results do not provide a definitive diagnosis, they usually contribute valuable information that ultimately leads to a final diagnosis. If the sample is not conclusive, your veterinarian may recommend sending the slides to the laboratory to be evaluated by a Veterinary Pathologist, a veterinarian that has additional education in diseases and microscopy.
What is the next diagnostic step after cytology?
The next diagnostic step after cytology is histology. Histology is the microscopic examination of solid tissue AFTER the mass has been taken off surgically from the pet. Histology lets you and your vet answer two important questions: what is this mass? And were we able to get clean margins during surgical removal (getting ALL of the tumor)
In most cases, histology will provide a definitive diagnosis, and is generally considered the diagnostic “gold standard”. If your pet has a growth surgically removed, we always highly recommend that the tissue be sent away for histological examination.