When people bring their pets to us to get lumps checked out, they often say that the patient isn’t bothered by the lump. Unfortunately, that has no predictive value when deciding if a lump is cancer or not. Trivial cysts can be quite itchy, and serious cancer completely pain free, so please don’t rely on this when deciding when to come in.

So when should you come to us about them, and when is it safe to leave them?

Well, an insect bite for example, will form a raised occasionally angry-looking bump on the skin, but even the more itchy ones should be gone in 2-3 weeks. So if a lump has been there longer than this then we should be looking at it.

It can be difficult even for us to tell whether a skin lump is cancerous (which means it may spread to other body areas) or benign (will only grow in the local area where you currently see it), so we often like to collect a small amount of tissue from the affected area using a small hypodermic needle, and send this to a pathologist to look at it. This will give us a good indication of what the lump is, and home much room we need to leave around it if we do have to remove it.

If a skin lump is cancerous, the outlook for the patient can often be very good if they are removed early enough when they’re nice and small, so it is important not to leave skin lumps too long.

It’s a long time ago now, but I’ll never forget the words of the professor of surgery when I was a student who once said to us: “Don’t wait to see if it will grow. It will grow!”

So if the lump has been present for 3 weeks, pop your pet in and let us have a look at it. It could just save their life.