Why Testing Lumps is Important

FNA vs Biopsy

If you’ve discovered a lump on your pet – have this checked out by your vet as quickly as possible.

Don’t use a “wait and see” approach to see if it changes because – if it’s a malignant growth then every day you leave it, the greater the risk of dangerous cells spreading to other parts of the body.

You want this type of lump removed as quickly as possible.

If the lump is not dangerous (thankfully not all lumps are) then at least you have paid for peace of mind that your pet’s health is not at risk.

Testing Lumps

There are 2 ways to find out what lump we’re dealing with. These are through:

  1. Fine Needle Aspirate (FNA) and
  2. Biopsy

Fine Needle Aspirate (FNA)

Here a small sample is taken by inserting a thin needle into the centre of the lump and withdrawing some sample cells from within.

These cells are then examined under a microscope (either by your vet or sent to a laboratory) for Pathologist assessment. Provided that the sample contains the right type and number of cells (and they haven’t been damaged by their passage through the tiny needle) a diagnosis of the growth type and Grade (invasiveness) can be made.Diagnosing lumps in animals

The advantage of this method is that it is quick and easy. No sedation, anaesthetic or hospital stay is required. This procedure can be comfortable performed during the consultation.

The Downside of Fine Needle Aspirate (FNA) Sampling Method?

Results are sometimes inconclusive because the sample analysed is either not sufficient in volume or it contains cells other than the ones needed for diagnosis.

For this reason we most often recommend taking a core biopsy instead.

Core Biopsy Sampling Method

A biopsy is a surgery where a tumour or part of a tumour is surgically removed and sent off to a Pathologist for classification. Most of these can be performed under sedation and local anaesthesia however (deeper or internal) tumours will require full anaesthesia.

Because of the time it takes to prepare and examine the sample, results can take up to 10 days to arrive.

A biospy provides your vet with both a diagnosis of cell type and level of invasiveness (Grade)

This means your vet now knows how much of the surrounding tissue needs t be removed and what further diagnostics are needed (if applicable) to determine whether the cells have spread to other parts of the body.

3 Options of Lump Assessment

  1. Your Vet’s assessment of FNA sample in consultation
  2. Pathologist assessment of FNA sample at external lab and
  3. Pathologist assessment of core tissue sample

Naturally there are price differences between methods with Option 1 the cheapest and Option 3 the most expensive.

Ultimately the choice of method is up to you.

Our way of helping our clients make a decision is to ask them this. “Would you have cancer surgery based on your GP looking at your cells under a microscope or would you feel safer with a Pathologist (Specialist) opinion.”

The worst way to assess any lump is by guesswork. Concluding that a lump is harmless because of the way it looks is simply not good enough.

Neither is adopting a “wait and see if it grows any bigger” approach and then doing something about it.


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