Cat Cancer

"Cat Cancer understanding and treatment has seen many advances in the last several years. It tends to be diagnosed in cats between 10 and 15 years old. Learn about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options for this disease."

Hearing a diagnosis of cat cancer does not mean the end of its life. Like cancer treatment in people, there are now many options for treating your cat. In general, treatments tend to be more effective and have fewer side effects.

Cancer in cats is often in the form of a tumor. Tumors are any sort of lump or bump (called neoplasms). Tumors that grow are called neoplasms. There are two types of tumors:

Benign - Tumors that grow slowly and don't spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor is treated with surgery. These types of tumors grow slowly, don't spread to other areas and are cured through surgical removal.

Malignant - These tumors are the same as cancer and are also called carcinomas, sarcomas and lymphomas depending on where the cancer is on the body. As the cancer spreads from one part of the body to another, it can enter the lymph nodes or circulatory system. The spread is called metastasizing.

No one knows what causes cancer in cats although many believe it has something to do with genetic predisposition. A number of risk factors have been identified including stress, pollution, colorings and preservatives and an inadequate diet.

Cats have a higher incidence of cancer than dogs and other domestic animals. Cat Cancer tends to be found in the abdomen, lymph nodes, lungs and liver.

What is Cat Cancer?

In a normal cat, cells are constantly dying and being replaced. In a cat with cancer, something is wrong with the replacement cells (called mutant cells). These mutant cells reproduce quickly and form into large groupings. Since these cells are mutant, they cannot provide the same function as the healthy cells they replaced. If these cells or cancer grows, it eventually replaces healthy tissue and weakens the various organs until your cat can no longer survive.

Half of all cancer cases in cats can be traced to the feline leukemia virus (leukemia) which effects the lymph nodes (lymphosarcoma) and blood cells.

Types of Cat Cancer

Bladder Cancer Feline: This type of cancer is often confused with a bladder infection. Symptoms include difficulty urinating and difficulty defecating. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Feline Bone Cancer: occurs when a tumor grows and spreads inside the bone. The most common type is called osteosarcoma. This is a rare condition. Symptoms of feline bone cancer include swelling in the leg or a limp.

Cat Breast Cancer and Tumors

There are several types of feline breast cancer

Colon Cancer Feline: is difficult to diagnose since it shares symptoms with many other diseases such as viral and bacterial infections. The disease is treated with surgery.

Cat Mouth Cancer: this type of cancer involves tumors that usually form on the tongue or at the base of a tooth. The most common type is called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Treatments for feline oral cancer tend not to be effective with surgery being the most common approach.

Feline Intestinal Lymphoma: is a condition that causes cancerous growth in the intestinal tract. Treatment involves chemotherapy and possibly surgery.

Cat Lymphoma: feline lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates in the white blood cells. It can occur in one or different areas of the body. Cats with feline leukemia virus are particularly susceptible to this condition. Feline lymphoma symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea. Lymphoma can affect different parts of your cat's body such as feline renal lymphoma.

Lymphosarcoma: cancer of the lymph system

Leukemia: 50% of all cat cancers is classified as leukemia which is cancer of the white blood cells. It is usually accompanied by a weak immune system which results in other diseases such as bacterial infection, fungal infection, anemia (low red blood cell count), peritonitis (inflammation in the abdomen), kidney disease (glomerulonephritis) and toxoplasmosis (infectious disease caused by a protozoa).

Lung Cancer: this is a rare condition that starts by showing respiratory symptoms such as coughing. Surgery can help with cases that are caught early.

Liver Cancer (hepatic neoplasia): usually due to cancer that spreads from other parts of the body. Lymphoma is the most common tumor type.

Feline Pancreatic Cancer: this form of cancer occurs when a tumor grows inside the pancreas. There are no known cures although dietary supplements that rich in Omega-3 fatty acids may help.

Cat Skin Tumors - Lumps and Bumps on the Skin

Cat Skin Cancer

There are several different types of cat skin cancer.

Feline Stomach Cancer: this type of cancer tends to be diagnosed after it has spread. Treatment is primarily with surgery to remove diseased tissue. Chemotherapy and radiation are not commonly used due to the effect on surrounding organs.

Cat Cancer Symptoms

These are eight early warning signs of cancer in your cat:

- Unusual swelling that continues to grow
- Sores that do not heal
- Weight Loss
- Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
- Reluctance to move
- Loss of energy
- Difficulty breathing, urinating or making a bowel movement
- Sleeping more than usual

Cancer Symptoms Requiring Emergency Treatment

- Your cat has collapsed
- Bleeding after receiving chemotherapy
- Loss of appetite while undergoing treatment

Cat Cancer Symptoms Requiring a Call or Visit to Your Veterinarian

Skin : Sores, bumps, lumps

Leg : Swelling or a limp

Seizure - Cat that has a seizure (uncontrolled shaking) for the first time

Nose : Blood coming from the nose

Mouth : Lump, bump or growth

Breast : Lump or swelling

Diagnosis of Cancer

Determining if your cat has cancer usually requires more than blood tests or x-rays. Your Veterinarian will need to take a sample of the area in question (a biopsy) and send it to a laboratory to test for the presence of cancer. Cancer cannot be diagnosed visually since an examination of individual cells is necessary. If cancer cells are found (called malignant), your entire cat will need to be examined since many types of cancer can spread.

Cancer is graded based on its severity. Low grade cancer tends to be confined to a local area and grow larger in size. They do spread, but late in the progression of the disease.

Tests for Cat Cancer

Biopsy : The removal of a small sample or an attempt to completely remove a cancerous mass. The biopsy is sent to a lab for analysis. A veterinarian may remove an entire lymph node to see if cancer has spread or if cancer of the lymph nodes exists.

Fine-needle Aspiration (FNA) : Like a biopsy, but instead of surgery, a needle is used to extract cancerous cells for testing.

Blood Tests : There is no blood test for cancer. Changes in the composition of blood could indicate problems such as low red blood cells, high white blood cells or changes in kidney and liver function.

X-Ray : An x-ray will detect tumors in the lungs, chest or bones.

Ultrasound : The best technique for detecting tumors in the abdomen. A biopsy would be needed to confirm any findings.

Endoscopy : A video camera on a thin tube that is inserted into the mouth or nose to look for tumors.

Surgery : To examine any area in question.

CT/MRI Scans: Best technique for detecting tumors that are near bone and are unable to be seen by X-rays.

Treatment for Cat Cancer

Early stage cancers have a higher success rate than late stage cancers. There are three main types of treatment for cat cancer:

Surgery - The tumor is removed surgically.

Radiation - Radiation is used to shrink the tumor. This is used when a tumor is unable to be removed surgically due to its location.

Chemotherapy - This involves the use of strong medications to kill the cancer cells. It is used when a tumor is unable to be removed surgically and is often used in combination with radiation. It may also be used after surgery to make sure to kill any remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy treatment has side effects in cats.

Alternative Treatments for Cat Cancer

Check with your veterinarian or consult with a homeopathic veterinarian to see if it makes sense to supplement traditional cancer therapies with alternative treatments such as acupuncture, aromatherapy and homeopathy. This is also a good choice if you decide to forgo treatment when those options will result in a poor quality of life and want to possibly slow the progression of cancer.

Homeopathic options can help to boost your cat's immune and and lymph systems, two critical parts of fighting cancer. PetAlive C-Caps is made for this purpose and to slow down the spread of cancer cells to the surrounding tissue. Discuss this and any treatment options with your veterinarian.

Sources for Cat Cancer:

Nutrition and Cancer: New Keys for Cure and Control 2003!
Gregory K. Ogilvie, DVM, DACVIM (Internal Medicine & Oncology)
Colorado State University
Ft. Collins, CO, USA

Antony Moore, BVSC
Diplomate ACVIM
Director, Veterinary Oncology Consultants

Carlson, Delbert G. DVM
Giffin, M.D.
Cat Owner's HOme Veterinary Handbook

Pet Education


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