Why Is “Staging” Important for a Pet Cancer Patient?

October 5, 2020 11:42 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

“Staging” is the process of assessing your pet’s complete body health when a cancer diagnosis might be imminent. This helps your veterinarian in Phoenix, AZ ensure that they’ve found all the potential areas of disease.

Cancer often presents as large masses in the body, but there can be pockets of cancerous cells elsewhere, in less-noticeable forms. It’s important to find all the pockets to determine how far along the disease has progressed, and what can be done.

Here’s what goes into the staging process.

Other types of masses

Your pet might not have cancer at all, or they could have the disease with other problems occurring simultaneously. Sometimes benign cysts can swell dramatically. “Foreign body reactions” is a phrase that describes the swelling and pain that can occur when your pet steps on a sharp object, gets a splinter or otherwise has a reaction to something that shouldn’t be in their body.

Your pet might also suffer from hives or abscesses, which can both present as large, mass-like swelling. The only way to know for sure is to take your pet to the animal hospital in Phoenix, AZ.

Fine needle aspiration

You may have had a cyst aspirated yourself and are already familiar with the process. If not, it involves taking a very fine needle and pushing it into the mass, then pulling back on the plunger to take a sample of cells directly from the mass. Then the cells are analyzed in a process called cytology.

Fine needle aspiration is much less invasive than a biopsy, and is rarely painful. Once the sample is analyzed in-house, many veterinarians choose to have the findings backed up by a veterinary pathologist at a certified lab.

In some cases, your veterinarian will be able to make a diagnosis from the fine needle aspiration alone. For others, they’ll need to try other techniques like biopsies.


Biopsies are very similar to fine needle aspirations, but much more invasive. Your pet will probably need to be given anesthesia and some sort of pain medication. Then the veterinarian will use a scalpel, larger needle or core tube to take a sample. They might take a sample, or they may choose to remove the entire mass during the biopsy.

The main difference between biopsies and fine needle aspirations is that a biopsy better allows for a correct diagnosis—the pathologist is able to see different layers of tissue and generally gets a larger sample than what you might get with a fine needle aspiration. They’ll also be able to compare normal cells with any abnormal ones.

Once your pet has had a fine needle aspiration, a biopsy or both, your veterinarian will be able to determine the extent of the disease and come up with a suitable treatment plan.

If you’ve discovered any masses on your pet, call Christown Animal Hospital in Phoenix, AZ right away. We’ll help you through every step of the process of diagnosing and treating your pet, whether it’s a splinter or something worse.

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