I know Breast Cancer Awareness Month is October, but I wanted share this information with you now. This is a story that was publish this past October for Breast Cancer Awareness, however, it is information we all can use all year round. I think we all understand the risk of breast cancer in humans, but do you know there is a risk for your pets? There is a big risk for your dogs and cats, especially if they were spayed later in life.
Below is a story from Petside Newsletter about one cat's story dealing with breast cancer and a few tips to help you try to prevent or detect it in your own pet.
Lovely Suzy in 2005.
Suzy the cat was about nine years old when her owner, Michelle, noticed that one of her nipples was red and swollen. Unaware of what this symptom could mean, Michelle didn't think much of it. "I was clueless," she admits. "I didn't even think to compare it to the size and color of her other mammary glands."
When it didn't get better, she decided to take Suzy to the vet. At the doctor's recommendation, surgery was scheduled a few days later and two mammary glands were removed and biopsied.
Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, countless stories of breast cancer, braveness and being a survivor have been told in order to encourage prevention and detection. Just as women have been reminded to perform a monthly self-exam to feel for lumps, you should do a regular check for lumps, bumps and swelling on the belly and chest of your dog or cat as part of her health routine, too.
Unfortunately, statistics were not on Suzy's side. "Eighty-five percent of mammary masses in cats are malignant," says Avenelle Turner, DVM, veterinary oncologist at Veterinary Cancer Group in Los Angeles, CA, who treated Suzy. Dogs fare a bit better: there's a fifty percent chance of malignancy in canine mammary tumors.
Suzy's tests determined that her tumors were, indeed, cancerous and Michelle immediately began learning all she could about the disease in the hopes that she could help her cat recover.
She soon found out that the one true preventative measure she could have taken--early spaying--was out of her control. Suzy was adopted at around 2 years of age and had been spayed only a month prior to joining Michelle's family.
But if you have a younger pet, take note: "Spaying a dog before her first heat cycle reduces her lifetime risk of mammary cancer to 0.5 percent," says Dr. Turner. That risk increases to 8 percent if she's spayed between her first and second heat cycles, and rises to 26 percent if she's spayed later than that.
The benefits aren't quite as dramatic for cats, but spaying early does help decrease their risk as well. If your pet was adopted late in the game or spayed after her second heat cycle like Suzy was, don't panic, warns Dr. Turner. "Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer," she points out. "The risks factors just increase."
Once you've done all you can to prevent mammary cancer, the most helpful step is early detection.
Detection and Care
While humans can get blood tests, mammograms and other screenings for early diagnosis, that technology hasn't progressed to veterinary medicine. "The best thing dog and cat owners can do is be vigilant, feel for any bumps or nodules around the mammary glands and watch for any discharge or swelling," advises Dr. Turner.
If you notice unusual symptoms, have them checked out as soon as possible. One thing that can aid in detection is keeping your pet at a healthy weight. While excess fat doesn't put your dog or cat at any greater risk, it does make feeling tumors more difficult.
Suzy eventually had another surgery and three rounds of chemotherapy.
In spite of the excellent care she received, the cancer was aggressive and spread to her lungs. She passed away on May 1, 2010 at about 10 years old. "Even though I lost Suzy, I hope her story will help other cat owners figure out how to prevent, detect and cope with mammary cancer," Michelle says. "If more people are aware, it could save their pets in the future."
For more information on help for pet breast cancer, bark on the link: Bark!