Identifying lumps and bumps – yes we can!

It seems few things can instill panic in a pet owner like the discovery of a new lump or growth. Is it something cancerous that should be removed? Will it go away on its own? Is it benign and can stay?
Sure, I can give you an idea based on location, appearance, and feel. Sometimes this is not enough.
Therefore, it’s important to perform a “fine-needle aspirate and cytology”. Basically, I take a syringe (same size as we use for vaccines) and poke the lump in question, often in a couple places and from varying angles. I collect cells into the needle, which I then apply to a microscope slide. We use a series of stains to make the cells able to be visualized under the microscope.
Growths that are fatty are very common and easy to diagnose! Some types of cancer love to show off, and they give me lots of cells to look at. Sometimes, I can tell you a lot by what I am NOT seeing! One family of tumors (sarcomas) do not give up their cells very easily, giving me few cells to observe. Regardless of the “generosity” of the growth, we can perform the aspirate and read the slide right in your home! It typically takes about 10 minutes for results.
While aspiration/cytology is a very useful tool, it is not 100% accurate (nothing ever is!). In rare occasions, the cells we see do not reflect what the mass actually is. This is particularly true in very large growths (bigger than a golfball). If I am concerned about something hiding “under the radar,” we’ll discuss options such as rechecking/ aspirating in a few weeks, or referral to a clinic for surgical biopsy.