Breast Cancer Awareness Month-Is it for appropriate for pets too?
Submitted by Lisa A. Yackel, CVPM, PHR
As someone who has marketing as part of their job description, I am always looking for success stories or ventures. Around this time I am always amazed at how well Breast Cancer Awareness Month has been adopted and embraced by every business and every marketing venue. You would be hard pressed to find someone who did not recognize the pink ribbon symbol and know the meaning behind it. Every organization could only hope that their brand awareness was as recognizable.
Unlike the human side of medicine, breast cancer for pets is rarely discussed. During your pets annual (and hopefully semi-annual) preventative care exam, the veterinarian will make sure that examination of the mammary glands are included in the physical observations. While male dogs can get breast cancer, like their human component, it is more prevalently seen amongst female dogs. Veterinarians are especially diligent about palpating on female dogs and cats that have not been spayed or were spayed at an older age. Early spaying dramatically decreases the risk of developing breast cancer in dogs and in cats.
If a lump is found on your pet, the veterinarian will most likely ask to take x-rays as well. Since surgical removal of the tumor (or the chain of mammary glands found in our pets) is usually the first treatment that is indicated, the x-ray will determine whether the cancer has metastasized. About half the dogs with breast cancer are cured by surgical removal alone. Cats are not as lucky as dogs when it comes to breast cancer. Even with a radical mastectomy, which in a cat consists of removal of all the breast tissue on one side, cats are rarely cured. Surgery successfully removes the tumor, but metastasis is the killer. Sites of metastasis are similar to those in women with invasive forms of breast cancer: lungs and bones.
For advanced breast cancer in women, dogs and cats, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are treatments used following surgical removal of the tumor. Most of the cases that we see in our hospital are treated solely by surgical removal and the spaying of the pet. It is thought that removal of the estrogen produced by the ovaries will discourage further growth of the cancer.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month highlights and educates the benefits of self breast exams and regular mammograms as well as visits to your physician. If you give daily belly rubs to your pets; it will be easy to find any breast lumps early. Have any lump in the breast area evaluated by your veterinarian. Donâ€™t ignore lumps â€“ on your pet or on yourself and , at least once a year, have a professional do a thorough exam for early detection.
Spaying your pet not only helps prevent unwanted pets and overpopulation but also could save your petâ€™s life by dramatically reducing the risk of breast cancer.