Cancer tumours can present in a wide variety of different areas on a dog, just as with humans. Some tumour locations are more common than others, including cancer of the mouth and tumours on the face or neck. Cancer tumours can also develop inside the nose or throat. Some tumours in a dog's neck and face are completely harmless and benign, while others are malignant and in danger of spreading.
Some types of tumours are more common than others, such as cancer of the mouth or nose. These tumours can denote the presence of cancer in the nose or mouth, or a nearby region such as the thyroid or in the neck. Cancer tumours can also appear around the outside of the mouth, the chin and along the length of the neck. There are two basic types of tumours: Benign tumours do not spread and offer a better removal success rate, while malignant tumours grow and spread and offer greater difficulty in removal.
The severity of the cancer is addressed with staging, a process that describes the nature of the tumour and whether or not it has spread elsewhere in the face, neck or body. With melanoma tumours in the face, size has an impact on the survival rate of the dog. The staging of the tumour is also important, as any melanoma that has spread (stage 2) is likely to have a poorer prognosis. With osteosarcoma in the face or neck, the location of the tumour plays more of a role, especially if it has spread to surrounding tissue which will lower the removal success rate.
Diagnosis of tumours in the neck and face begins with a complete examination, blood cell count and a chemistry profile. Urinalysis may also help to evaluate the patient's overall health. Oral radiographs and chest radiographs will indicate the location of the tumour and whether or not the cancer has spread. The veterinarian will then biopsy the tumour to type the cancer. Surrounding tissue analysis will help to determine how the cancer has spread so he can determine a treatment program.
In cancer of the mouth, maxillectomy or mandibulectomy may be required, removing the upper or lower jaw to prevent the cancer from spreading. When the tumour is smaller, a portion of the jaw bone may be removed instead. In most other forms of facial and neck cancer, the tumour is typically removable without requiring extensive surgery, unless spreading or metastasising has occurred. In instances where the tumour has spread, radiation therapy may be the best course of action.
"Although many lumps, bumps and tumours are not harmful to the dog, if you have concern about physical changes in the face or neck of your dog, consult a veterinarian," says Caroline Tanaka, a private-practice veterinarian in Austin, Texas. "Because mouth, nose and other facial and neck tumours can spread and worsen so quickly, getting a proper diagnosis early is of vital importance."