What are oral tumors?
Oral tumors arise from both soft tissue and bony structures within the mouth and can include less common locations such as the tongue and onsils.
These are the fourth most common type of cancer in dogs. They can be either benign and cured with surgical removal or malignant and require more aggressive therapy including surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. General categories of tumors include the epulides (fibromatous, ossifying, and acanthomatous), locally invasive malignant tumors (fibrosarcoma, soft tissue sarcoma, and squamous cell carcinoma), and malignant tumors that have a higher rate of spreading to other parts of the body (melanoma, osteosarcoma).
A complete blood count, complete biochemical profile, and urinalysis are performed before surgery to check internal organ health. Chest x-rays are used to help rule out the possibility of visible spread of the cancer to the lungs; please note that microscopic spread of tumor to the lungs cannot be detected with x-rays. X-rays of the tumor site may help determine if the tumor invades into the bone. A CT scan of the jaw may also be recommended to further evaluate the extent of the tumor. Enlarged lymph nodes will be checked for spread of cancer via biopsy. Depending on the size of the mass and its location, a fine needle aspirate or incisional (wedge) biopsy may be performed under general anesthesia. Sometimes these biopsy tests do not give an accurate diagnosis, therefore only after the entire tumor is removed and studied by a pathologist can a final diagnosis be made.
The goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumor with curative intent. Removal of any part of the upper jawbone is termed a maxillectomy. The amount of the jaw that is removed is dependant on the size and location of the tumor. There can be instances where massive amounts of the upper jawbone need to be removed despite removing such a large portion of the jaw; the cosmetic outcome is very good in most cases (see photo right).
If your companion has a tumor that tends to spread (metastasizes), chemotherapy will be recommended and is administered every third week for a total of five treatments. Unlike humans, most dogs do not loose their hair and usually have only mild side effects, which may include transient loss of appetite and vomiting. Certain types of tumors cannot be cured with surgery alone, therefore radiation therapy is needed to help delay the regrowth of residual cancer cells in the mouth. Radiation is administered daily (Monday through Friday) until 18 to 21 treatments have been completed.
The prognosis for your companion is dependant on biopsy results, location, and size of the tumor. In general, tumors located on the front part of the jaw have a better prognosis. The oncologist will discuss the prognosis for your pet and need for additional treatments after the final biopsy results are available.
Learn more about this disease by contacting our Oncology service at your nearest BluePearl veterinary hospital. Here are our hospital locations.
© BluePearl Veterinary Partners 2012