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Alarming Diagnoses Lead to Concerns of Cancer Epidemic

Two days ago an adorable two-year-old Schnauzer mix came to the hospital where I was working in Oakland, California. The dog had a soft swelling...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Feb 6th 2009


Two days ago an adorable two-year-old Schnauzer mix came to the hospital where I was working in Oakland, California. The dog had a soft swelling on the bridge of his nose. Many of his lymph nodes were enlarged.

I collected samples of the mass and lymph nodes using a procedure called fine needle aspiration. Fine needle aspiration is simple and does not require sedation or anesthesia in most pets.

Yesterday the diagnosis came in: the dog has an aggressive cancer called lymphoma.

Lymphoma is, unfortunately, very common in ten-year-old dogs and cats. It is supposed to be almost nonexistent in young pets. However, in the last few months I have diagnosed lymphoma in two other animals younger than three. One was a Labrador Retriever in San Francisco. The other was a Dachshund in San Mateo.

That’s three young dogs, of three different breeds, in three different cities with a cancer that is supposed to occur almost exclusively in elderly pets.

Is this an epidemic? Statistically speaking, my experiences mean nothing at all. The three cases of juvenile lymphoma are more likely to be coincidence than an epidemic.

But, coincidence or not, I will confess that I have been losing sleep over the matter, and wondering whether other vets are having similar experiences.

Photo: Dr. Glenn Littel