Are pea-sized lumps a big deal? Short answer… yes. This doesn’t mean there is a need to panic. Instead, it means you should make an appointment with your veterinarian for a potential aspiration of the lump (use a fine needle to gather a small amount of cells to be examined under a microscope). There is a good possibility it’s benign (non-cancerous), but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
When pea-sized lumps are found to be cancerous, there are many times where it has not had the opportunity to spread to other parts of the body. If you wait, and it is cancer, your dog will be more at risk of metastasis (cancer spread). This is what we want to prevent.
We know it’s extremely difficult to even think about your dog having cancer, but knowing if the tumor is benign or malignant is crucial, both for your dog’s well-being and your own. If the pea-sized lump grows, and it is cancer, many pet parents will blame themselves for not getting into the veterinarian sooner.
What if it’s Benign?
If the pea-sized mass is benign, AKA non-cancerous, your veterinarian will likely still want to examine the lump on occasion. You should monitor the mass to see if it has grown. Benign tumors are removed surgically only when necessary.
If the mass is impeding on organs or affecting mobility, that’s when it will become a concern. On a positive note, knowing the mass is benign can put your mind at ease. Remember, your dog can feel your emotions and reflects upon those emotions. If you’re calm, your dog is more likely to be calm. Likewise, if you’re worried, your dog may show signs of distress and/or become destructive.
What if it’s Cancer?
If it’s cancer, a pea-sized lump is much easier to remove than a large mass. It’s also much easier to get clean margins when the mass is small because the cancer has likely not spread to other parts of the body. Your dog’s prognosis is often much better when the cancer is caught early.
Since it is more difficult to get rid of all the cancer once the mass has grown, your dog may require chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, among other treatment modalities to get rid of the cancer if you wait. Whereas, if the lump is removed when it’s small, other modalities are often not recommended.
Whenever you see any kind of mass, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. If your veterinarian refuses to aspirate the lump, look for a veterinarian who will aspirate to determine if the mass is benign or malignant. This will save you a lot of time, money, and heartache down the road should the lump be cancerous.
Watch Dr. Sue, the Cancer Vet, discuss fine-needle aspiration below in just over 60 seconds: