Mast Cell Tumours (MCT) are a very common cancer seen in dogs. A mast cell is a special type of blood cell that is normally involved in the body’s response to allergens and inflammation. Sometime these cells can become cancerous and develop into mast cell tumors .
What may appear to be a simple skin wart, tag of fatty tissue or lump may in fact be a mast cell tumor ,as such can be impossible to diagnose by just observation. The majority of animals that develop a MCT are middle aged to older pets but it is possible to see them in dogs as young as six months.
Certain breeds are more prone to the tumor including Boxers, Staffordshire Bull Terriors, Pugs. Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Boston Terriors and Weimaraners. Sharpels are especially susceptible to the early development of particularly aggressive mast tumors . Some MCT tumors may be present for months or years before rapidly spreading.
Occasionally manipulation of the tumor may result in the release of histamines causing local swelling and redness the mass may be described by the owner as going up or down in size over a 24 hour period.The behaviour of MCT is also highly variable,ranging from a grade one tumor that may be cured by surgery alone,through to more aggressive grade three tumors which is very likely to spread to other sites (Known as Metastases).
MCT is usually easy to identify under the microscope by taking a sample of cells with a needle from the lesion. Once identified, surgery is the first best treatment. Because the tumors are invasive the vet must remove it with a large margin of normal tissue both around and the underneath to ensure complete removal. In some cases, it is impossible to remove all the cancerous cells due to location of the tumor , these cases may require further surgery or chemotherapy or radiation treatment to clear the local disease.
After Removal the vet will send the tissue to the laboratory for Histopathology. For those MCT that have already spread the prognosis is not always the best. The goal of treatment for these dogs is to attempt to shrink the tumours with chemotherapy and to maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible by controlling the symptoms of mast cell present in the body-Never give up hope, early detection is the answer, always take your dog to your local vet should you find any lumps on your dog.