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Breast Cancer Awareness for Animals

Updated on October 20, 2015

Breast cancer awareness for pets

Charms for people and their pets from Kiki's Castle
Charms for people and their pets from Kiki's Castle | Source

As you probably know by now, at least if you live in the USA, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. According to the CDC breast cancer is the leading type of cancer for women and the second highest cancer killer among women, and should be addressed. Talk to a doctor about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a close family member of yours had breast or ovarian cancer. Your doctor can help you decide when and how often to get mammograms. Race, genetic history and environmental factors can influence when mammograms are most beneficial. Although it is approximately 100 times rarer, men can also develop breast cancer, and should keep an eye out for lumps in the chest area, nipple retraction or discharge. Humans, however, are not the only animals with breast cancer, this killer can effect our pets as well.

Tumors found in the breast are the third most common tumor in female cats, and like humans, it is the most common tumor for dogs and rats. Other rodents, including rabbits, also have a fairly high risk of developing mammary cancers, although they develop differently in different types of rodents. As with humans, the best way to detect a problem early at home is to look for and feel for lumps in the affected areas. The bodies of our pets are designed to feed a much larger number of babies at once than our bodies, so the mammary glands cover a larger area of their bodies. In order to effectively check your pets mammary health you will want to check the area from the armpit to where back legs attach. Check the area for lumps both visually and by touch. A majority of lumps and bumps are not tumors, and not all of those that are tumors are life threatening, but it is wise to get it checked. Most likely, your veterinarian will first do a thorough physical examination of the lump and surrounding areas, and quite often will also get a sample of the lump, either by a biopsy or using a fine needle to gather tissue. Mammary glands in our pets are connected by blood vessels that make it easy for the cancer to spread between glands. This means that removal of breast cancer cells in animals may require that a larger area be removed by surgery in the event of malignant cancer being discovered. One of the best ways to protect against breast cancer in female animals is to have your pets spayed.

Cancer information specific to dogs

Tumors in unspayed females occur most often in middle age, around 5-10 years of age, and only 50% of the mammary tumors end up being malignant, however the prognosis is better if caught early and the tissue affected by the cancer is promptly removed. Dogs often recover from cancer surgery much more quickly than humans as the underlying tissue remains intact. Normal activity can often be resumed I as little as 10 to 14 days after surgery, depending on several factors chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be sometimes be recommended after surgical removal, but not always. Prognosis becomes much poorer once the cancer moves to the lymph node. Genetics does appear to play a role in dogs as well as humans and some species of dogs are more likely to develop this type of cancer. Some of the notable breeds more prone to breast cancer are Brittany and Cocker spaniels, Poodles, English setters, and Boston and Fox terriers.


Cancer information specific to cats

The average age for cancer to strike in cats is between 10-14 years of age. Although breast tumors are rarer in cats than in dogs the likelihood of it being malignant hovers somewhere around 80-90 percent and has a tendency to spread to the lymph nodes and lungs at which point the outlook becomes much grimmer. If it is caught early there is a much improved prognosis, so if you detect a lump in the mammary area of your cat having a vet look at it as soon as possible is always the best bet. Because of the aggressiveness of the tumors in felines the entire chain of mammary glands is removed, and in some cases the lymph nodes in that area as well. Although obesity is not proven to cause breast cancer in cats it certainly can mask the appearance of tumors, allowing cancer to spread farther before being caught. Male cats who are taking progesterone based hormone treatments for behavioral problems such as aggression or spraying are at a slightly increased chance of acquiring this type of cancer. Although Siamese cats have an increased risk of cancer, for the most part the chances of developing mammary cancer appears to be pretty uniform across different breeds, including big cats such as lions, leopards and tigers.



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