Happy New Year! We kick off 2015 with our January patient of the month, Pearl. She is a sweet and playful 6 year old, spayed female West Highland white terrier. We first saw her 2 years ago in January of 2012. She presented with cytology confirmed melanoma metastasis in the right pre-scapular lymph node. The original tumor had been removed from her right medial elbow in December of 2010, and was reported as a low-grade melanoma of the skin with a low mitotic index. Several small nodules had developed around the incision site in the months before we saw her.
Malignant melanoma of the skin is uncommon, as most skin melanomas come back as benign tumors. Given the original biopsy findings of a low-grade tumor, it was surprising that spread to the lymph node had occurred. It was very possible that disease could also be present in the lungs or other lymph nodes. Staging tests, that included chest x-rays and an abdominal ultrasound, were performed and came back with no evidence of further disease spread. Survival time for a patient with Pearl’s diagnosis could be very short without further treatment.
Following consultation with Dr. Elmslie, Pearl’s family decided on treatment combined with surgery. Pearl received her first melanoma vaccine, then 1 week later, underwent surgery to remove the nodules. She did great with the anesthesia and surgery, and once she was healed, resumed the protocol for treatment with the melanoma vaccines. Pearl had a total of 8 vaccines that finished up in March of 2014, while monitoring chest x-rays periodically.
Pearl was in to see Dr. Elmslie in October of 2014 for a follow-up examination. Chest x-rays came back clear, and her physical exam was clinically normal, consistent with a remission of the cutaneous melanoma. Pearl’s mom shares her story:
“This is Miss Pearl, she is three years cancer free. She is very loving, and sometimes a little feisty, and she keeps her older brother, Bernie, in check. If she had her way, she would play fetch 24/7. To hear she had cancer and might not make it, devastated me. We welcomed her into our family to cushion the blow of losing Bernie, who is older, and then she was the one who got sick. She had surgery, (melanoma) vaccinations, and a complete change of diet (all organic and no grains). We are so happy with her recovery. I am very thankful to Dr. Elmslie, and her wonderful staff for all the care that was given to Pearl during her treatment.”