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Association between lymph node size and metastasis in dogs with oral malignant melanoma: 100 cases (1987–2001)

Laurel E. Williams DVM, DACVIM1 and Rebecca A. Packer MS, DVM2
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  • 1 Veterinary Teaching Hospital, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.
  • | 2 Veterinary Teaching Hospital, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.

Abstract

Objective—To determine the association between lymph node size and metastasis and to assess measurement of lymph node size as an accurate and reliable means of tumor staging in dogs with oral malignant melanoma.

Design—Retrospective study.

Animals—100 dogs with histologically confirmed oral malignant melanoma.

Procedure—Clinical records for dogs with oral malignant melanoma were reviewed. Data regarding size and results of cytologic or histologic examination of lymph nodes were evaluated. The association between lymph node size and metastasis was determined.

Results—Forty-seven (47%) dogs, of which 23 (49%) had enlarged mandibular lymph nodes, had no cytologic or histologic evidence of metastasis. Of 53 (53%) dogs with cytologic or histologic evidence of mandibular lymph node metastasis, 37 (70%) had enlarged mandibular lymph nodes, and 16 (30%) had mandibular lymph nodes of normal size. Overall, 16 of the 40 (40%) dogs with normal-sized lymph nodes had microscopic evidence of metastatic disease. Sensitivity and specificity of lymph node size as a predictor of metastasis were 70 and 51%, respectively, and the positive and negative predictive values were 62 and 60%, respectively.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Although a significant relationship was identified between lymph node size and metastasis to the lymph node, this association did not appear strong enough to be clinically relevant. Results suggest that lymph node size alone is insufficient for accurate clinical staging of oral malignant melanoma in dogs; cytologic or histologic examination of regional lymph nodes should routinely be performed, regardless of size of those nodes. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;222:1234–1236)