Monday, January 16, 2006

Turnabout is fair play, I guess

Well, I've been inadvertently scaring Diana a lot lately, so I guess it's only fair that she gave me a scare today, although I'm relieved to report there was a happy ending.

Last night, while catching Diana to give her her thyroid medicine, I noticed a hard lump in her "breast" (in sensu strictu, cats don't have breasts, but it's a more convenient shorthand than any of the refinements of "mammary gland" which would be more technically correct).

When you're conducting self-exams and you find a lump, it's not necessarily cancer, and you need to see a health-care practitioner to make sure, since there are so many possibilities, cancerous and non--but there is a rule of thumb: hard (like a BB) tends to be more worrisome than soft (like a cyst). Again, you can't know without seeing a health-care practitioner, but when her lump felt like a BB, I couldn't help worrying. I took her to the first appointment I could get today at my vet with a real feeling of dread.

The thing about lumps, though, is that they can have many different causes, and take different courses, so even rules of thumb like the one above aren't always right. The vet performed a fine-needle aspiration, and we were both hoping to biopsy a few cells out of what we thought was tissue, to look at under the microscope.

What we got instead, happily, was a lot of acellular fluid (probably serum, backed up inside a clogged duct, due to the holiday from grooming she's decided that she, as an old kitty, is entitled to embark upon).

That means that what I was dreading as cancer from that hard, solid feel, was really what should have felt like a fluid-filled cyst, one of the more benign outcomes. I went to the vet's dreading what I was going to hear; I left in much better spirits. We lost one of the Dorothies (hamsters) to mammary cancer last year; in three weeks, she went from small visible lump to poor quality of life, and I was so sure we were going to repeat that. [The reason they were all named Dorothy is that I took a repro biology course a couple of years ago, and we learned how to perform Pap smears on (bitey!) Siberian hamsters. Their fate at the end of the course seemed as though it might be uncertain, so I adopted my cohort, and they retired from their lab careers. My friend Dorothy objected to the adoption on the grounds that we already have too many pets, and she kept on objecting, so I named them all three Dorothy, just to piss her off in the hope she would grow to accept her namesakes.]

And since Diana's getting older and slowing down so much, and letting the grooming go, I guess we can add another kitty maintenance task to Mr. Raven's and my checklist. Not a bad tradeoff for such a benign diagnosis, though.


At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

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