05/17/2013 10:23 am ET Updated Jul 16, 2013

Animal Cancer Awareness Month

In light of the stories related to Angelina Jolie's brave willingness to allow her own health story to become public, I honestly cannot decide whether the timing here is fortunate or hideous. But that said, May is Animal Cancer Awareness Month and I've been asked by several readers to talk about that.

One reader has created a website in honor of her lovely cat Sugar Rub, a survivor of feline mammary cancer. Sugar Rub survived this typically fatal disease because of the happy accident of her human feeling a lump when she simply picked up her cat for a hug. Fortuitous early detection saved this cat from the third most commonly fatal disease in cats. While the incidence is relatively rare it is not insignificant (1 in 4,000 cats). Far worse is the malignancy rate: 80-90% in cats, 50% in dogs.

The best preventive measure is one I endorse for all sorts of reasons. Surgical sterilization of cats and dogs at a young age, before their first heat cycle, is the best prevention of the disease. Spaying (and neutering of males, an equally important prevention for other cancers) not only prevents unwanted litters but also fatal diseases.

Get your animals spayed or neutered. And while your pet's annual veterinary check-up certainly includes the sort of hands-on exam that may detect a lump, it's important to know your pet's body well enough on your own to offer up what in fact saved Sugar Rub.

Check out her website at