Mammary Tumor


Ponderous death swings, hanging low,
Rank and dripping where he has broken out
The confines of his host. The crab,
Heracles' old enemy, creeping slow,
Spreading his tendrils just beneath
Her skin. Her teats are hard, misshapen knots.
Where mewling pups might once have nursed,
Instead the tumor sinks his crooked teeth.

He is her own and not her own.
There is a civil war within her flesh,
And she is losing. Worn and spent,
She is so little beyond skin and bone,
Stark ribs rise outcurved from her chest.
She was powerful once, her strength has gone
To feed his bursting corpulence,
This suckling, scirrhous devil at her breast.

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This Poems Story

this poem was inspired by a case I saw early in my career as a veterinarian; an unusually large, basketball-sized mammary adenocarcinoma on a once beautiful German Shepard female. I was able to remove the tumor later on in her lungs. I hope to use those words to share an often overlooked fact: the incidence of mammry tumors in dogs spayed before their first heat I only 0.5%. It rises to 8% after their first heat, and 26% after their second heat. 23% to 24% of unspayed female dogs also develop pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus.