For malignant tumors, the best prognosis is if it is caught early while the tumor is small, and then it is removed completely. Larger tumors, lymph node involvement, and existing spread to other parts of the body make for a poorer prognosis. Some tumor types, such as ductal carcinomas and sarcomas, have a poor prognosis. The tumor specimen is sent for a histopathology examination to see if the surgeon achieved good margins, which assesses the ability remove the entire tumor.
It will remain important to watch for tumor recurrence or spread with malignant tumors, so the recommendation is to check for metastasis with chest x-rays or abdominal ultrasounds every 3-6 months, to examine the surgery site and to check local lymph nodes.
The prognosis for your dog’s recovery depends upon many factors and is unique to each dog. Not surprisingly, the size of the tumor when it’s found is important. The larger the tumor, the poorer the prognosis. Other factors include any ulceration, the histologic grade, lymph node involvement and risk of metastatic disease.
According to the blog Canine Cancer Awareness, “Half of all tumors are malignant and unfortunately, 50-75% of them will kill the dog by recurrence or spreading (metastasizing) to the lungs within 1-2 years.”
Your decision on treatment depends upon your veterinarian’s advice, cancer stage and your choice on what’s best for your dog. The most important thing is to ensure your dog does not suffer pain unnecessarily.
Luckily, you can take preventative action to help lower your pup’s risk of developing a mammary tumor.
Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles, associate professor of oncology at the CVM, said that spaying or neutering your pet before they have their first or second reproductive season is the most effective way of preventing mammary tumors in dogs. Regular checkups at the veterinarian is also a good way to protect your pet.
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“Yearly physical examinations of both male and female animals should include careful palpation of the mammary chains,” Wilson-Robles said. “Any nodule should be further investigated; often, this would include some form of biopsy. We strongly recommend against a ‘wait-and-see’ approach—any mammary tumor that is growing rapidly or is swollen, hot, or painful should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.”
If your dog does develop a tumor, surgery is the standard of care for mammary tumors. In cases where there is high risk of tumors reoccurring or spreading, radiation and chemotherapy may be used for treatment.