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Astute Observation and Early Detection Keys to Success in Treatment of Thyroid Tumor
You suddenly feel a dreaded “lump”under your dog’s furry coat.You panic –the naturalresponse when something scary happens with your faithful companion. For Nikki Licht, a veterinary resident in Emergency and Critical Medicine at Cummings School, she knew more than many pet owners. Havinginitially playedout the worst possible scenariosabout Pippa’s fate, she now realizes it was herexperience, astute observation, and early detection,combined withthe expert care provided by the Oncology Service,that would allcontribute to this story’s happy ending.
September 19, 2018

When Nikki noticed an unusual lump under Pippa’s collar, her mind went to the worst possible scenarios. For Nikki Licht, a veterinarian, it was a case of the more you know, the more worried you become. Pippa, her beloved 6-1/2-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, had already in her young life been diagnosed with a heart murmur. One of her first thoughts –  if the heart murmur wasn’t going to get her, then this probably would.

She had the training and knowledge to know that the lump would likely not go away on its own, but this experience and perhaps Pippa’s short hair played a role in the early detection of this small-to-moderate sized nodule in her neck. There was also no question as to whom she would entrust the care of Pippa.

“During my residency, I interacted with the many services at the Henry and Lois Foster Hospital for Small Animals, and knew that I would have access to a full complement of specialists providing care collaboratively and seamlessly,” Nikki explained.

More often diagnosed in older dogs and not until the tumor is much larger, Pippa’s biopsy revealed a thyroid carcinoma (tumor), which was fortunately treatable. The tumor was small enough and not adhered to any underlying structures, so surgery was performed immediately. While the tumor visually appeared to be removed completely, a post-surgical biopsy revealed residual microscopic tendrils of cancer cells. According to Lisa Barber, DVM, DACVIM (oncology), this was not uncommon. Since Nikki wished to fight the cancer aggressively, Pippa underwent courses of both radiation therapy and carboplatin chemotherapy to fight any cancer left behind at the surgery site or that had spread to other sites in the body.

Nikki can’t say enough about the care and compassion of the entire clinical team. “Everyone was amazing. From surgery to critical care, radiation and medical oncology services, I was comforted to know that Pippa had an expert team of specialists on her side and that they were trained to address any issues associated with her heart murmur, especially during anesthesia and when weighing treatment options.”

As a pet owner, it broke Nikki’s heart to subject Pippa to surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. “It was my choice to do what I thought was best, not hers, but I was relieved when I dropped her off. She would get her doggy treats, wag her tail and off she went,” recalls Nikki.

Now 1-1/2 years later, as Nikki prepares for her next veterinary adventure in Salt Lake City, Pippa’s treatment is a distant memory and she reflects positively on her experience at Cummings School. Not only is she grateful for the learning opportunity as a resident, but she is eternally grateful to the Oncology service at Foster Hospital to be bringing Pippa along as her faithful companion.