JD's Biopsy Results Revealed Mast Cell Tumor: You Don't Know What the Bump Is Unless You Look at the Cells

We found three bumps on JD which we had checked out last week. One of them, looking like a skin tag, is a skin tag. We had the other two aspirated because no matter how much you stare at or play with a bump, you cannot tell what it is by doing that.

One of JD's bumps was preliminarily thought to be a lipoma and the other one probably a cyst. JD is another example why you want to biopsy every bump you find, no matter how little and how innocent it might look.

The biopsy results came back this morning.

The bump on his thigh is indeed a lipoma as thought. There were no suspicious findings on that one. The other one, however, is not a cyst after all.

The bump on JD's tarsus is a mast cell tumor.

Tiny, innocent-looking little thing. Not at all the typical lesion you'd expect to see. Yet not so innocent after all. Mast cell tumors can indeed look like anything or look like nothing much at all.

What is a mast cell tumor?

A mast cell tumor (MTC) is cancer of specialized, histamine-releasing immune cells found in connective tissue - mast cells. MTCs account for up to 20% of skin tumors in dogs. If we're lucky, surgery can be all the treatment needed. The biopsy result says that the cells show mild atypia.

JD is perfectly happy and doesn't know he should be worried about something.

The upside is that JD's tumor is very tiny and now we know what is is. 

JD is scheduled for surgery on Friday. Then another biopsy and staging of the tumor. Surgery is the treatment of choice for MCT, and often the only treatment needed.

I'm a bit concerned about the location because where it is there isn't much surrounding tissue to remove at all. Will we be able to get clean margins? Ideally, two centimeters of tissue should ideally be removed all around. But there isn't much of all around there. We may or may not have to follow the surgery with radiation therapy. For now, we're going to get it out and see what else needs to be done.

JD's bump isn't the only example of why it is important to aspirate each and every bump.

I was following what I believed was the best thing to do but at times I wondered whether I was being overzealous. But clearly, I was not.

Don't wait, aspirate.

Related articles:
Primer On Mast Cell Tumors In Dogs 
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: What Is that Bump? 
What Is Cytology And When You Might Need One For Your Dog?

It's That Time of the Year Again: Annual Wellness Exam and JD's Bumps
Bad Dog: JD's Garbage Gut And Diarrhea 
Grocery Bag Is Not An Open Buffet: What Was In JD's Vomit 
JD's Leg Injury And Hip Dysplasia
JD's Injury And Bad Hip Update

Further reading:
The Oncologist’s thoughts on mast cell tumors 
Diagnosing mast cell tumors
Mast cell tumor treatment: surgery and radiation
All about Mast Cell Tumor Grade
Beyond Mast Cell Tumor Grade: Other Prognostic Factors

Do you have a story to share?

Your story can help others, maybe even save a life!

What were the first signs you noticed? How did you dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

Email me, I'll be happy to hear from you!


  1. I'm so glad that you had it checked when it is still small!

    1. Yes, we are too. It's thanks to Dr. Ettinger's campaign and articles.

  2. Replies
    1. Yes. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Have them checked no matter how small, no matter how innocent-looking and no matter how many of them might have been benign.

  3. Hope all of the cancer was removed. Purring.

    1. Thank you, hon. The surgery is going to be on Friday.

  4. Amen and thanks for sharing this. I am sorry about the lump and what it showed but hopefully the surgery will be all that is needed. We have been down this road and agree: every lump needs aspiration. Keep us posted.

    1. Yes, we're hoping too that surgery is all it will need. My concern is the lack of tissue for good margins.

  5. Thinking of you and JD. Sending positive thoughts.

  6. I hope the surgery goes well on Friday.

    Thanks for a great article. I am Dr Sue Ettinger's number one Aussie fan. I love her work and the #See Something Do Something" campaign.

    My website had an event in Perth in June and we were lucky enough to have Dr Sue bring her campaign to Australia via Skype. I will have a page dedicated to this campaign shortly. If everyone was to get the aspirates rather than having a vet tell them by looking and feeling what the lump is, the lives of many more dogs would be saved.

    I have some articles that might be of interest to readers wherein oncologists are coming out openly telling people they can't tell if it is cancer or not by looking and feeling. Dr Ken Wyatt in the biopsy video and Dr Sue Ettinger and Dr Michael Lucroy. http://bit.ly/1r31qdo

    1. Thank you, Lisa. JD is on his way for surgery now.

      Dr. Sue is awesome. Thank you for the link. I think vets should stop recommending watching bumps all together. Aspiration is quite non-invasive and easy enough, why not just do it?

    2. Not sure about the USA or Canada but my feeling is that in Australia dog owners just believe that the vet just knows what it is by looking. They dont understand you just cant tell and aspirate is the way to go although they are not able to tell you everything. The best way I think is that we need to get vets on board writing articles in the same way of Dr Michael and Dr Sue. The more that come out and tell dog owners the truth and that they must aspirate the more chance of getting a good outcome. I am a firm believer that this is where it is going wrong at the start. We are losing dogs unnecessarily. This is the one thing I want to change. The one important message that is costing us dogs. Thats why I love Dr Sues campaign.

    3. If they can tell what it is by looking more power to them - but, of course, we know it's not possible. Vet thought - from looking, feeling and even looking at the slide after aspiration - that it was a cyst.

      The silly thing is that it is SO EASY to get the aspirate. So why not just do it? Dr. Sue's campaign is so important.

  7. The feedback I have had from some vets is owners wont pay to have it done. I say to the vets well have you told them if they dont and you are wrong they could have a dead dog? Have you told them vets cant tell by looking? They dont say that of course. It is not up to the vet to tell decide who will and wont pay. I am blunt with people and say exactly that. I did a new video of the caninecancer.org.au story (which has a link on the homepage) and that is exactly what was said in the narration of Frodo's story. When I do events face to face with people I say the same thing then refer them to my board with Dr.Sue's article "Five Common Mistakes Of Cancer Surgery" and say if an oncologist cant tell then how can a GP vet. The response is normally shock, horror and "I didnt know that I assumed the vet could tell"

    In Australia we can't go to an oncologist without a referral and even that at times is hard to get. I was involved in one case where the vet would not give it saying the oncologist won't see you for a lump like that. I had the appointment for this dog and I nearly had to drive two hours myself to front this vet. The oncologist in this case would have seen the dog anyway. The referral came in just minutes before the appointment. How many other people have this sort of trouble? I know how it works so I was able to tell this owner the facts but I dont know everyone sadly :) If people contact me I make sure I do though and say let me know if you have a problem and I will sort it. Beyond belief really if it gets to that

  8. It is about $150 here to have it done via a pathologist or about $100 in house. I am open to suggestions if you have any as how to get this message out further to people :) I wrote a blog post on this same topic http://bit.ly/1El1S8r

    1. Which is a small price to pay for a life, I'd think. People spend money on toys and fancy collars and leashes and outfits ... money that is better spent on annual wellness exams, dental care, and lump biopsies.

      I think the best way to get across to people are real-life stories. Having an actual face with the story, it's no longer just a theoretical recommendation. I think such things have the biggest impact.

      I'd be happy to help by publishing some of them here.

    2. I have Frodo's story and the caninecancer.org.au story on the homepage but that is a video narration. Is that any good to you? The vet got it wrong for Frodo and pathology saved his life.

    3. An original re-write would work better, if you don't mind.

    4. Hey, one more idea and good timing for it. How about a printable pdf calendar? Some info from Dr. Sue - and being a calendar it has a good chance to be printed and used.

  9. You mean an article on his story?

    1. Yes. I have real-life stories column on Tuesdays.


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