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Features February 2016 Issue

If the Cancer Surgeon Got Clean Margins,  Why Did the Tumor Grow Back?

If the Cancer Surgeon Got Clean Margins, Why Did the Tumor Grow Back?

The benefits — and limitations — of assessing margins when a cancer is removed in an operation.

You sit anxiously in the waiting room while your dog undergoes surgery to remove a cancerous mass. Finally, after what seems like forever, the doctor comes out in his scrubs and tells you he was able to excise the malignant tumor and that he believes he got it all. Relieved but not yet “out of the woods,” you wait for the pathology report. Sure enough, it confirms the surgeon’s belief that he excised the cancer in its entirety. There are clean margins.

Why, then, does the tumor grow back in the exact same spot some months later?

Says soft tissue veterinary surgeon John Berg, DVM, who operates on cancerous tumors …

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