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medical confusion?!?!?

July 13th, 2005, 11:20 AM
Ok, I have an appt. with my vet tomorrow, and I want to go in prepared with some questions for him so I don't look "ignorant".....I hope someone can help. I've done research on the net, and its mostly medical mumbo jumbo that I can't understand.

A bit of background for those of you who don't know me or my dog Brick: Brick had a small lump removed from his back leg (haunch area) - it was like a little mole but the vet was concerned b/c it wasn't the same colour as his skin & it had hair growing out of it.

When we got the results back, the vet wasn't in to talk to, but the assistant/receptionist told me that it was a "cancerous growth but it was benign". Here is where the confusion set in....I thought a growth or tumor was either cancerous (malignant) or benign...I didn't think it could be both! So when I asked her about it, she said it was cancerous, but it was benign which meant that it wasn't a spreading type of cancer. (anyone else confused now??) I then asked her how that is possible, and she said, "well the vet got it all, so the growth won't reappear." I then asked if she could guarantee that, and of course she stumbled because by this point I'm thinking she doesn't know what the heck she is talking about! She did say it was a type of skin cancer, sort of like skin tags in humans, which are benign, but could become cancerous. :confused: Why would she tell me it WAS cancerous, then tell me it COULD become cancerous???

I went home and did some research on the type of growth it was (collagenous hamartoma) & found out that it was a type of skin cancer, but the rest was foreign to me! But I DO know that benign means "not recurrent or progressive; not malignant; harmless"....soooooo.... how is that possible if the growth was "cancerous"??????

Can anyone make this clear to me before tomorrow?? Thanks!!!

July 13th, 2005, 11:25 AM
I'd pm Ck with this one if google is doing nothing but confusing matters. I know that tumors can be benign and KEEP re-occuring as I have a friend who is undergoing chemo and the whole bit for a non-malignant growth that is inoperable...confusing stuff, I agree.

Hope your baby is o.k.

July 13th, 2005, 11:59 AM
To be honest Catt I'm slightly confused about that as well. If it's cancer then it's cancer but if it's benign then it's not supposed to be ?

Okay..really confused at that one.

:confused: :confused: :confused:

July 13th, 2005, 12:28 PM
Yey, biology comes in handy again.

In cell biology, the term "cancer" refers to the growth of abnormal cells. These cells for whatever reason have mutated DNA and thus produce tissue that is different from the body's normal tissues. These cells usually divide rapidly, to the point where you get what "regular" people call "Cancer". If the tissue is in one place and has no will to spread itself everywhere, it's benign. If it's ferocious and is taking over neighboring tissues, it's malignant.

Does that answer anything? Cancer cells= abnormal cells.

July 13th, 2005, 12:59 PM
But still cancerous but benign?

Yet abnormal cells can also be pre-cancerous.

July 13th, 2005, 02:14 PM
That's the thing. Terms you use in the lab get spread throughout the media and through doctors with a different meaning. Not that either is wrong, it's just that the same terms are used for the slightly different things. The trouble starts when you have a lab giving a doctor results...

Here's malignant from my cell phys text:
Cells become less adhesive to one another than are normal cells. Therefore they have a tendancy to wander through the tissues, to enter the blood stream and to be transported all thought the body where they form new cancerous growths. The cancer cell does not respect usual cellular growth limits.

And, you can have a mutation in a gene, called an "oncogene", and usually several of the oncogenes need to be activated simultaneously to become cancer. Usually malignant forms outcompete the body's natural tissues for nutrients and that is what leads to the eventual death. But if the growth is benign, it most likely is not spreading, therefore is not outcompeting the body tissues for nutrients. In that case, perhaps some but not all the oncogenes were activated.

July 13th, 2005, 02:53 PM
Ohhhhhhhh ding ding ding ding

the bells going off now THANKS :D Prin

July 13th, 2005, 04:28 PM
I'm still confused!! I understand about abnormal cells & pre-cancerous cells, as I had that some years back...but how is this related to Bricks lil' ol' growth thingy?? "If it's cancer then it's cancer but if it's benign then it's not supposed to be ?" --- my thoughts EXACTLY Luba!!!! Thanks for the help Prin!

So basically, Brick's growth could have become malignant, travelling through his body IF we hadn't removed it when we did???? But because the cells were "lazy" and didn't want to travel around AND the vet got it all (so he says), and it wasn't ferocious, it is/was benign?? Am I sort of on the right track??

Umm, silly question now... CK is who? I know I should know this but for some reason I'm drawing a blank!!! No offense CK!! :o

July 13th, 2005, 05:20 PM
I think you've got it now!! CK is CyberKitten, who I believe is a doctor.

BTW - Prin - nice job of explaining!

July 13th, 2005, 07:05 PM
So basically, Brick's growth could have become malignant, travelling through his body IF we hadn't removed it when we did???? But because the cells were "lazy" and didn't want to travel around AND the vet got it all (so he says), and it wasn't ferocious, it is/was benign?? Am I sort of on the right track??
It probably didn't have enough of the right genes switched on to become malignant. I doubt it would have become malignant if you had left it there, but the DNA in the abnormal cells may need just one more mutation before they became malignant cells, for example, and with the growth just not growing very quickly, the cells are not dividing fast, so the odds of hitting the right mutation would be slim.

No worries. :)

July 13th, 2005, 08:56 PM
I just read this quickly - this is one of my busier days. None of what that vetr assistant said makes sense and you should ask to speak to the vet. Ask him specifically what KIND of cancer the dog has. There is no such entity as a "cancerous growth but it was benign". You are right - that's an oxymoron and as Prin explained (you gonna apply to med school Prin?? :) ), the biopsy would show one of two results - the tumour is either benign or cancerous. There is no middle ground.

There are many many types of skin cancer and while I may be Board certificed in human oncology, I admittedly know very little about how the process affects dogs. Tho I am guessing the basics are similar - but there may be different processes and obvious differing clinical values.

Some types of skin cancers are quite aggressive - like melonoma - while others can be almost "chronic". You can live with some skin cancers for decades and probably die of something entirely different.

Skin cancer (like most cancers to be frank) is just an uncontrolled increase of abnormal new cells. These cells form tumors that can destroy surrounding tissue and spread throughout the body. Malignant means cells are cancerous, benign means they are NOT cancerous.

If your dog has skin cancer, it is not enough for your vet to just say that. S/he needs to explain what type of skin cancer (there are maybe 100 types of skin cancer) and what exactly he means.

You wrote: "So basically, Brick's growth could have become malignant, travelling through his body IF we hadn't removed it when we did???? But because the cells were "lazy" and didn't want to travel around AND the vet got it all (so he says), and it wasn't ferocious, it is/was benign?? Am I sort of on the right track??"

Cells are never "could have" become malignant - they are either malignant or not. Any part of our body can become malignant but that does not mean we need to start removing them. The vet removed the tumour and surrounding tissue (? - or did he just take out the tumour, how far had the cancer progressed? Had it progressed at all?).

There are no "lazy" cells - though cancer cells are abnornal in the way they look and some of them (like aggressive melanomas) multiply very quickly and it is hard to stop them before they do too much damage!

Some cancers will metastasize which means the cells spread from their point of origin to other parts of the body by way of the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. That has clearly not occured here ir else your dog would require more treatment.

Some skin cancers have a predisposition to recur which really just means we have to watch and monitor the person (in your case your dog) to ensure there are no cancer cells. If he said this is possible, you should watch your dog carefully for unusual lumps and behavious and health out of the oridnary. Mind you, this is something we need to do with our pets anyway but you need to be on the lok out particularly for lumps or unusual growths on your dog in the same way say a woman whose mother or maternal grandmother had breast cancer needs to be more vigilant. It does not mean she will develop the disease but that research has shown she has a higher liklihood than other people to do so. Your dog, having now had one tumour that was biopsied and shown to be cancerous, will need to be monitored by you and your vet for lumps, bumps and anything that looks unusual.

I hope this helps - it is a little too quick of a description. I WOULD if I were you ask for a mich better description from your vet and obtain a VERY specific diagnosis. What kind of skin cancer? What did the vet do specifically? Whjy?? What is the routine protocol for this cancer?

Good luck!! With the exception of some melanomas, skin cancer can be fairly easily treated - especially when found early!!

My guess (and not knowing the precise diagnosis, skin cancer not being at all specific), is that your vet means that

July 13th, 2005, 10:52 PM
Nah, no med school for me. I applied to vet school, but like 90% of the people who apply, I didn't get in.

At least once every few hundred threads my biology comes in handy... :D If I end up in genomics, maybe I'll be able to tell you specifically what genes are the culprits... I'm sure you'd want to know. :p I mean my 1 year of Exercise Science so far outshines the 2 of Biology as far as practicality goes...

July 14th, 2005, 12:31 AM
Does that mean you are giving up on vet school? Surely there are others? I do not know abut vet school buty I have heard some weird reasons as to why ppl did not get into med school. My own family doctor - who did her family medicine residency in Sask but her degree in Hungary (in English) tho she is from New Brunswick, was uanble to get into a few Cdn universities is an absolutely excellent doctor - and I do not say that often!!

I guess I am saying you should not give up!!

My nrother has ayear of a phys ed degree - tho has several courses in Lesiures Stdies taken that yr that sound very questionable to me, lol Then there is my nephew doing the Recretaion and Biz degree - I tease him that he is majoring in snowboarding. Well of course he is!! :D

July 14th, 2005, 12:07 PM
It's messed up in Canada with the vet schools. There are 4, and being that there are only 4, they tend to have very rigid admission policies as far as what province you came from and what language you speak (here in Qc), on top of needing straight A's. I applied to the French one here (gasp-- doing a degree in French? :eek: ) but my GPA wasn't high enough. I don't even know how they calculate their version of the GPA so I don't know what has more weight or anything. I was also told that a ton of English people do get in, but when you look at the graduating class lists from over the years, there might be 1 English person every 5 years... If I make it to the interview one day, we'll see. I just hate that people who have never even seen an animal get in while those of us who really care sit on the sidelines. And that's my whine for the day.

Sorry for the total threadjack... :sorry:

July 14th, 2005, 05:32 PM
Thanks CK & Prin! It made more sense after you explained it in plain ol' English!!! But I think I need to look for a new vet!! :rolleyes:

The vet said that there are 2 kinds of cancer - benign & malignant, benign being a safe cancer & malignant being the bad cancer that spreads. What he called Brick's growth was "collagenous hamartoma".

He said there is nothing to worry about, no other treatment that needs to be done, just always check him for lumps and oddities (which we do anyways) and all should be fine.

He got his stitches out today - what a trooper! The assistant wasn't very gentle and she ripped off some hair with the thread....poor dog!!! But he was rewarded well at the end of all that!! Long walk, swim in the river and a big fat bone!!!!! Lucky bum!!!

Thanks everyone!!! :grouphug:

July 14th, 2005, 05:56 PM
Wow! He is completely offbase with that definition - there is no such entity as a benign cancer. If a lump - whether a tumoir, hemartoma, etc is malignant, than it is cancer. That is just so basic = hardly need to take biology to know that!!! If the lump is benign, then it may be one of other things like amartomas, lipomas and other types.

I don't personally consider any cancer "safe" - any cancer left to its own devices can kill. Some are however slower in development - hence we have chronic leukemia for example. But they still nered treatment and are hardly "benign" This guy either needs a refresher course or one in communication???

I agree you need a new vet!

Hamartomas are simply lesions with varying amounts of benign epithelial elements, fibrous tissue, and fat. Many medical ppl consider this entity to be underdiagnosed. Now, I am not sure about that in dogs however! But they are not typically cancerous in humans but you would be wise to ask a vet who knows about how they act in dogs!!

Glad to hear your pooch is doing well!!!