Pets are at risk for breast cancer, too

Posted at 4:43 PM, Oct 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-27 16:43:01-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and while we usually focus on people, it turns out your pets are at risk too.

Women are told to check themselves for breast lumps once a week or once a month. According to BluePearl veterinary oncologist Christine Swanson, we should be doing the same for our pets.

“The same things you feel when you do an exam, a little lump or a mass, is the same thing you are going to feel in your dog,” Dr. Swanson said.

Cats and dogs most at risk for developing breast cancer are females used for breeding, but Dr. Swanson has seen cases in both male and spayed females.

If you feel a mass on your pet, Swanson says it's important that if it doesn't go away within a week or two to have it checked by a veterinarian.

Seventy-five percent of the time, when caught early, masses can be cured with surgery. But if not, oncologists like Dr. Swanson can help.

“About half of all masses are benign, half are going to be malignant and about half of those will spread to other parts of the body," Dr. Swanson said. "That’s when I can come in; if surgery isn’t curative, then we can add things in like chemotherapy to help.”

Home exams might be a little different than what you're used to, because cats and dogs have between eight and ten nipples. Dr. Swanson recommends going along each one and roll it through your fingers to get a feel if there is something out of order.