Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Yup, It's Cancer.

Well, Brisbane's suspected carnassial tooth abscess did not respond to antibiotics at all. In fact, it may have gotten bigger. The vet numbed his face down and stuck the bump with needles and sent whatever she got out to the cytology lab.  We were expecting results back within a few days, but I was told that the initial report was not particularly detailed or helpful. Our wonderful vet spent the next two weeks chasing down the pathologist who did the report and shaking them down for answers. Here's what we learned:

It's Definitely a Mesenchymal Cell Tumor.

Mesenchymal cells are undifferentiated stem cells that can turn into all sorts of things. Sometimes they get a bit messed up and start turning into the wrong things. This is a very big category of tumors though, and encompasses the entire group of soft tissue sarcomas. I believe this was all that came back on the original cytology report

It's a Soft Tissue Sarcoma.

Again, this is a great big group that encompasses things as benign as those fatty lipoma lumps old Labradors tend to grow, and as horrific as the deadly and aggressive hemangiosarcoma. That's basically the entire range of severity when it comes to bumps on dogs. Could be something completely harmless and painless, could be acutely fatal cancer-of-the-everything that's undetectable until it's in the late stages. Again, not that helpful an answer.

It's Likely a Hemangiopericytoma.

This is a type of peripheral nerve sheath tumor. Without doing a major surgical biopsy we can't be sure, but the pathologist said there is a very good chance that's what we're dealing with. These tumors are usually localized, but also aggressive. They don't spread to other parts of the body or hostilely take over the lungs most of the time, but they do tend to grow and bother the structures around them. Typically these are treated by removing them surgically and then using radiation to make sure they're really gone. If not completely obliterated, they tend to grow back even more aggressively.

The Good News.

Brisbane has a low-grade tumor, the type that is least likely to metastasize to other parts of the body. He doesn't appear to be in any pain from the tumor, he is still behaving normally and gnawing bones and bully sticks with that side of his mouth.
sleeping dog on India elephant bedspread
Not exactly devastating, but not great either.

The Bad News.

The location means it is unlikely the tumor could be removed completely enough to prevent regrowth. Surgery and radiation treatment would be a long, painful process that would ultimately do very little for Briz besides make him miserable. 

Where We Go From Here.

So, at the recommendation of my vet, I am doing nothing about Brisbane's tumor. Well, actually I'm monitoring and measuring it and researching stuff and my vet is also casting far and wide for other treatment options. Mostly I'm just not going to put him through surgery. There is the possibility that the vet can inject the tumor with something to help shrink it whenever it finally starts to bug him. I first noticed the tumor a little over a month ago and in that time it has grown to 4x3.5 cm as of Saturday. It might keep growing steadily until it impacts his quality of life, or it might not even shorten his lifespan. For now he is a happy dog with a full and joyful life, and I'm going to enjoy him for as long as I have him. We have a sheep herding trial coming up in a couple of weeks, and we're ready to get his next Trick Dog Title and start looking into Dog Parkour and Cyber Rally. 

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