Mast cell tumors of the skin – holistic approaches for prevention and small tumors
Usually I tell folks I can tell if a skin tumor is benign by how it feels. Most benign tumors are easy to roll around, in other words not attached to any deep tissue. They tend to grow slowly and if they are under the skin they are fairly smooth. You can get some really ugly bumpy benign tumors on the skin surface. The exception to these rules is the mast cell tumors, which tend to feel like benign tumors but are really cancerous.
Mast cell tumors contain histamine and it is common to see a large amount of swelling if they get hit or injured. Often times this is when they are diagnosed. In large tumors this release can be dangerous and can cause anaphylaxis. Usually with small tumors this is not an issue.
This article is about small grade 1 and 2 mast cell tumors of the skin. For internal mast cell cancer and grade 3 tumors see Mast Cell tumors grade 3 and internal mast cell cancer
There are certain breeds of dogs who are very prone to these tumors, the number one breed being Boxers.
If you can remove a mast cell tumor of the skin usually you are in good shape if it is a grade 1 or 2. These tumors are slow to spread to other areas of the body. The grade 3 ones can be more problematic as they are faster to spread. Your veterinarian may use an antihistamine during surgery to avoid any chance of anaphylaxis, especially if the tumor is larger.
Mast cell tumors that grow in the skin are usually related to issues with blood flow. If there is not proper blood flow to the skin the immune system is not getting there and there is not enough vigilance against these tumors forming. These animals often will also have other issues with dry skin, skin inflammation or itchiness but not always.
Most dogs that have mast cell tumors in the skin will go on to form more with time. With enough of these growths the chances of getting a grade 3 seem to increase so it is best to try to treat the underlying blood flow issues early.
While I always used to recommend removal of these tumors, I have now seen more and more that I have been able to get rid of through herbal treatments, especially with combined topically and internal application. These days I often try an herbal approach first. That being said, I still feel like quick removal of these tumors and initiating steps for prevention of more is a good option.
The two most important tools I use for treating mast cell skin tumors are
- Up the meat in your dog’s diet and make sure it is good quality protein. If possible consider a high protein raw food. This helps reduce inflammation in the skin and improve blood flow. See Diets for cancer.
- Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang – this formula helps to move blood out to the skin and enhance the immune system’s response to cancer. Constant vigilance! More and more I feel like small tumors can be treated with this formula both used externally and internally. While I used to always recommend surgery, now I like to see if I can get rid of them with this herbal first. Please click on the formula name above to learn more. Also when treating any tumors topically check in with your vet first as mast cell tumors can cause a sudden release of histamine. I have never had a histamine issue with using it topically in one of my patients but the potential is there.
In addition I will sometimes use the following
- Acupuncture – can help to move blood to the skin and boost the immune system
- Mushrooms – Chinese mushrooms such as shiitake, maitake, cordyceps, and reishi can help stimulate the immune system and have a strong anti-cancer effect. I prefer the My Community Host Defense Mushroom Blend from the high quality company Fungi Perfecti.
- Artemisinin – can help to kill off cancer cells when they form
- Cod liver oil – the omega fatty acids in fish oils help to stimulate the immune system, work as anti-oxidants and reduce inflammation.
As with all articles on this site please check with your animal’s primary veterinarian before starting any supplements or herbs.