While having a pet who has been diagnosed with cancer can be a very difficult time in any animal lover’s life, Long Animal Hospital is here to help. If you have a cat with cancer, keep reading to learn how to help them live the best life possible.
Cancer in Cats
Cancer as a whole is a fairly generic term. Used to describe the uncontrolled and abnormal growth of cells within the body, cancer can start in any tissue or anywhere. Skin tumors, blood cancers, and abdominal masses are all considered types of cancer but can behave very differently due to their location and impact on normal body functions.
Furthermore, cancer in cats can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors, while not normal, typically are not invasive and are unlikely to spread to other places in the body. Malignant cancers, on the other hand, are often invasive and metastasize. They may also be physicaly destructive.
Depending on what type of cancer your cat has, symptoms can vary. Some of the more common signs of cancer in cats include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Lethargy or exercise intolerance
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Less social behavior/hiding more
- Not grooming themselves
- New lumps, bumps, or sores
Unfortunately, up to 20% of cats will be affected by cancer at some time in their lifespan, particularly as they age. Common cancer diagnoses in our feline patients include lymphoma (many times in relation to feline leukemia virus), squamous cell carcinoma (often in the oral cavity), mammary cancer, nasal tumors, sarcomas, and mast cell tumors of the skin.
Treatment for Your Purring Patient
When our doctors suspect cancer in a patient, it is very important for us to reach a diagnosis. Understanding what type of cancer we are dealing with can help us provide the best oncological treatment possible.
Diagnosis is most often made via tissue biopsy and/or cytology (examination of cells often from a needle biopsy). Once cancer is suspected, we typically recommend additional testing such as special cell tests, lymph node sampling, radiographs, and ultrasound to better stage and diagnose the cancer. This can help us to better formulate a treatment plan and help you understand what to expect.
Treatment for a cat with cancer is often multi-faceted and may include recommendations such as:
- Surgery to remove or debulk the cancer where possible
- Radiation therapy
- Radioactive iodine treatment
- Palliative care such as pain management and appetite support
It is important to note that in animals, treating cancer is much less aggressive than in humans. Because our goal is to extend quantity and quality of life instead of to eradicate cancer from the body, pets tend to tolerate treatments like chemotherapy with many fewer side effects than people do.
What to Expect for a Cat With Cancer
Allowing us to properly diagnose and stage your pet’s cancer can help us to better answer your questions about what to expect for your pet and what their life expectancy may be.
It is important to remember, though, that all cancers are different. Some are very easily treated while others may be very aggressive despite advanced treatments. Cancer rarely follows rules, either, and sometimes even though we have an accurate diagnosis and stage, things progress more rapidly or more slowly than expected.
If you have a cat with cancer, it is best to take things one day at a time and remember that we are on your side. We will do our best to help you provide the best for your feline friend and you. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about your pet.