As pets age, the risk of cancer increases both internally and externally, just as in people.
Similarly, pets experience some cancers that arise on the skin or areas that are visible and accessible. For these tumor types, an easily attained biopsy may be the answer to finding out not only the specific type of cancer but the prognosis for cure with treatment or — better — to determine that your pet can have a normal life without any additional intervention.
With growths or changes on almost any part of the body except the head, these lesions or masses can be biopsied with a minimal amount of anesthesia and surgery. For some, a mild sedative and a local anesthesia can allow your veterinarian to take a small sample and even suture or sew the small wound shut.
This is very important for the senior, or geriatric, patient that may have difficulty with a more protracted procedure requiring a general anesthetic and a lengthy surgical time. Even if more advanced anesthesia is required, the brevity of the procedure is often enough to greatly lower the risk.
Remember that age is not a disease and while sometimes the results of a minimal intervention biopsy may suggest that additional testing or surgery is necessary, for others an accurate diagnosis can help owners decide if any treatment is necessary and spare a senior more invasive or risky surgery or treatment.
Questions? Send them to Dr. Sandeman, Home & Garden, Quad-City Times, 500 E. 3rd St., Davenport, IA 52801. Or, email to papertrained@ mchsi.com. Dr. Sandeman cannot answer letters or email personally, but questions of general interest will be answered in this column.