Tuesday, February 9, 2016

My Boston terrier has a mast cell tumor; here's the plan

The mast cell tumor on this Boston terrier is above her eye
Yesterday, I told you that Sinead the Boston terrier was heading in for a bump checkup. I'll cut right to the chase. At the end of that appointment, we found out that she probably/almost certainly has a mast cell tumor.

Here's Clue No. 1: The vet took a few cells out of the bump with the help of a needle, and those cells were evaluated with a microscope. More than 95 percent of the cells on that slide were mast cells. That's a pretty clear diagnosis.

And Clue No. 2: After the needle test, Sinead's little bump swelled up to almost three times its size, and it turned an angry red. Change in size and color after manipulation is something that happens to almost every mast cell tumor. Since hers changed, it's again likely that we're dealing with a tumor.

Sinead the Boston terriers mast cell tumor closeup
See the red under the white? That's new.
On Monday, Sinead will head in for surgery. Typically, when surgeons are dealing with suspicious tumors like this that may or may not be cancerous, they try to cut both deep and wide. But this bump is very close to Sinead's eye, and there are nerves in that area that control her ability to blink. Our surgeon says he'll take out as much as he can--and he feels confident that he'll get the majority of it--but he may not get what the experts call "good margins." That means there may still be troubling cells left behind, even when he's cut everything he can.

That lump will head off to a pathology lab for further testing. It's here that we'll get the definitive lump diagnosis. We'll know, for sure, whether this is a mast cell tumor or something else. And we'll get an idea of how serious this tumor is. The pathologist will grade the tumor and give it a sort of score. That score will tell us whether it's possible that the tumor has spread to other parts of Sinead's body. And that report will tell us whether the margins of the cut are good or bad.

So the next 2 weeks are destined to be hard. This is the point when you wait and wait and wait, both for the surgery and then for the surgery results. It's all too easy to hop onto Google and read up about the terrible things these tumors can cause. And for me, it's all too easy to hop into my mental time machine and get this bump taken off 6 months ago, despite what the tests said at the time.

Neither is helpful.

Right now, my goal is to keep my calm. My wonderful friends at Woof: A Boston Terrier Board have been instrumental with this. I've been a member of this Boston terrier forum for years, and I've met tons of people who have lived through the Boston MCT problem in the past. Many of those people wrote me messages last night, filled with hope about Sinead's chances. I am hanging on to every one of those positive messages.

But I am also a planner. It's how I am and what I do. So I am also researching Portland veterinary oncologists and considering making consult appointments. If Sinead's tumor is serious, or the surgeon just couldn't get it all, I might need to head there for help.

For right now, though, I can't do anything. I wait. I worry.

It's hard.

Do you have good MCT stories to share? Successes? I'd love to hear them. Share your stories in the comments, won't you?

And did you miss yesterday's post about this lump appointment? It's right here.


  1. Wishing you POTP. I have never faced this and I hope it all goes well.

  2. We have purrs, prayers and good thoughts to offer in abundance. Please know we care, and that we will keep you and Sinead in our thoughts!

  3. we haven't had to deal with that, but we are sending lots and lots of purrs....the waiting is the worst part