Mast Cell Tumors in Dogs: Staging

Staging of cancer is a process of determining where that cancer exists in the patient.  ThatMast Cell Tumors in Dogs: Staging process results in a determination of the stage of a cancer, which is a description of the extent of cancer involvement in the patient.  It is an essential part of pretreatment evaluation of pets with cancer to make informed and practical decisions regarding the best type of treatment for the patient.  Treatment varies greatly if the cancer is confined to the primary site of development or if it has spread to other areas of the body.  Tumors that are localized to one particular site will most commonly be treated with surgery, or radiation therapy.  Tumors that have spread to other sites or have a high potential to do so will often involve the use of chemotherapy with or without other forms of treatment.

Common staging procedures for mast cell tumors in dogs

The primary focus of staging a dog with mast cell tumor disease is to evaluate the local site for ease of excision and evaluate the regional lymph node.  The regional lymph node is the site a mast cell tumor is most likely to spread to first.  If the lymph node is palpable, aspiration of the lymph node should be considered to evaluate whether or not there is cytological evidence that the tumor has spread to the lymph node.  This should be done even if the lymph node is normal in size.  Abdominal ultrasound is the other most commonly advised staging procedure.  This allows for evaluation of the liver and spleen, which are other sites, that mast cell tumors are considered to spread to most commonly, along with other lymph nodes that are in the abdomen.  Abdominal ultrasound is also a useful screening test of the abdominal region for other concurrent conditions that may be present in the patient.  Routine blood chemistries, complete blood count (CBC), and urinalysis are advised for general health evaluation prior to surgery.

Less common staging procedures for mast cell tumors in dogs

Other less common tests performed include bone marrow evaluation, buffy coat evaluation, andMast Cell Tumors in Dogs thoracic radiographs.  Evaluation of the bone marrow is unlikely to be positive for mast cells, except in situations in which the liver and spleen are involved, which represent a very small number of cases.  For the same reason, buffy coat evaluations are rarely positive unless liver, spleen or bone marrow is involved.  Buffy coat evaluation is performed by looking at a concentrated portion of the white cells in the peripheral blood for evidence of circulating mast cells in the blood.  Mast cell tumors rarely spread to the lungs, however thoracic radiographs can be useful for purposes of evaluating lymph nodes in the thoracic cavity for dogs with mast cell tumors in that area.  Thoracic radiographs may be a useful tool to screen for other health issues related to the lungs or heart in dogs with mast cell tumors prior to anesthesia.

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Dr Stephen Atwater

Stephen W. Atwater, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (oncology) is a board-certified veterinary oncology specialist. His professional interests include utilizing emerging therapies for difficult to treat cancers.

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