Myth 7: There’s no Way the Cancer has Spread Because My Pet is Behaving Normally
I frequently recommend performing staging tests in order to examine for spread of a particular tumor or cancer type. The exact tests will depend on the diagnosis, but can include bloodwork, urinalysis, testing regional lymph nodes and imaging tests (e.g. radiographs/x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans or MRI). The results of such tests are important, as they will influence treatment recommendations as well as a pet’s overall prognosis.
Owners are sometimes reluctant to pursue such testing, especially when their pets are showing no outward signs of illness related to their diagnosis. For example, a dog may be diagnosed with a cutaneous (skin) mast cell tumor because their owner notes a skin growth that changes in size or shape but is otherwise not bothering the pet. Mast cell tumors may remain confined to the skin or they may spread to regional lymph nodes, abdominal organs, and even to the bone marrow.
While it is true that dogs with widespread disease are more likely to be ill, not every dog with regional spread of disease (e.g., to a local lymph node) will have any adverse signs. The recommendations will be different for a dog with spread of a mast cell tumor versus one with it confined only to the skin.