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Vet help
Vet help, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 2736
Experience:  12 years experience as small animal vet, 21 years experience in the animal care field
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Our 12 yr. old GSD, has been diagnosed with a spindle cell ...

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Our 12 yr. old GSD, has been diagnosed with a spindle cell proliferation. Is this something that is life threatening?
Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Vet help replied 10 years ago.
HiCustomer Thank you for asking your question on Just Answer. The other experts and I are working on your answer. I just wanted to clarify your question a bit:

-By "proliferation" does this mean a mass/ tumor?
-Where is the mass located?
-Has it been surgically removed and if so, did the biopsy report state that the margins around the tumor were free of disease?

Thank you again for trusting us with your problem. Please reply as soon as possible so that we can finish answering your question.
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to RGK's Post: the dog has a mass on her side, that was not removed, but was biopsied. The lab result was spindal cell proliferation. The mass does not seem to bother her, she rolls over on it and doesn't pay any attention to it. According to the lab results, there were no cancer cells found. I am concerned about having it removed, as the dog is elderly, and I am trying to weigh the benefits against the risks.
Expert:  Vet help replied 10 years ago.
The fact that no evidence of cancer was found on the biopsy is encouraging that this is a benign lesion- a fibroma, tissue reaction to some sort of local inflammation or foreign body, or hemangioma being most likely. The latter type of tumor tends to bleed more heavily on fine needle aspirate and biopsy. If your vet did not mention this than we may be able to rule that out as a cause of the mass.
However, the downside to biopsy is that only a portion of the lesion is taken and if it is a low grade form of tumor like a fibrosarcoma or hemangiopericytoma, the biopsy sample may not reveal that. Having only a small collection of cells to evaluate can hinder proper diagnosis, because the tissue submitted may not contain the subtle signs of malignancy that low-grade tumors possess. In general, malignant spindle cell tumors, regardless of type, are bad news all around. For example, fibrosarcomas and hemangiopericytomas do not commonly spread to other parts of the body but they are very locally aggressive and can be much deeper microscopically than they feel on palpation. The tumors have "tentacles" that grow deep into the tissue, making adequate removal extremely difficult. As a result, they commonly recur. If incomplete excision of the tumor is determined by biopsy, then follow-up radiation therapy is often very helpful in controlling the tumors.
Another possible type of tumor, and one that is seen rather frequently in German Shepherds, is a hemangiosarcoma. This type of cancer does spread- most commonly to the lungs. Removal and follow-up chemotherapy are the recommended treatments.

As to whether you should have the mass removed or not- that surely is a tough call. There is an adage in veterinary medicine "age is not a disease". If your dog is otherwise healthy, as indicated by physical examination, bloodwork, and chest x-rays (to check for cancer in the lungs) and the tumor is a reasonable size so that the anesthetic procedure won't last too long- it may be worthwhile to go through with the surgery. That way the entire mass could be submitted for evaluation and you'd know exactly what you're dealing with. If it's benign, terrific. If not, then you know what you need to do next.
However, 12 years old is geriatric for a GSD and no one can know how much time she would have left, even if the tumor were not present. Which leaves you in the tough position of having to make a choice. Something that may help- consider the rate of growth of this mass. Aside from the hemangiosarcomas and fibrosarcomas which can increase in size in a short amount of time- the other types of spindle-cell tumors are generally slow growing. If this mass has come on quickly- removal is necessary. If it was more slowly and is still fairly small (less than 4-5 cm), you might want to opt a wait and see approach. Perhaps have a second biopsy done a few months from now to see if there have been any changes.
I wish that I could give you a definitive yes- do the surgery, or no- absolutely don't do it. But there are many variables here and the outcome is simply a big unknown.
I hope the additional information was helpful in your decision-making process.
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to RGK's Post: Your mention of excessive bleeding on fine needle aspiration, hit the nail on the head. I was suprised at the amount of blood. The vet did not mention anything about it. She seemed to be more concerned with rushing us to a decision for surgery. I don't want to put the dog through alot of unnessecary pain and therapy only to make what time she has left miserable. She seems happy now, and is healthy other than she has degenerative mylopathy, which is thankfully not at all aggressive. She still walks and jumps, and only trips occassionally. She underwent surgery two years ago for what was thought to be breast cancer. Turns out,it wasn't, but the surgery was nessecary, she had a condition that was described to us as "hydroplasia".
Expert:  Vet help replied 10 years ago.
Hemangiosarcomas can also bleed rather heavily, as both hemangiomas (benign) and hemangiosarcomas (malignant) arise from the blood vessels. GSDs are more prone to hemangiosarcomas than other breeds of dogs. If it is a hemangiosarcoma than the prognosis is poor regardless of whether you have the surgery or not. Generally, by the time of diagnosis the tumor has already spread to other areas of the body.
Again, she is geriatric and if she is otherwise doing well, I think it is a reasonable decision not to pursue the surgery. This type of situation is always difficult, but when you are weighing quality of life issues with no guarantees that surgery would actually prolong her life (every day is something to be thankful for at 12!), I don't know that I'd put her through it if she were my dog. Unfortunately, this leaves a big unknown- is it cancer, is it not? The most important thing is that you can be comfortable with whatever decision that is made. There's nothing worse than second guessing yourself after a bad outcome- whether it be something gone wrong after the surgery, or a problem from not having it done. But that's what "parenting" is all about, I guess!
Good luck to you and I hope that she continues to do well for a good long time to come!
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