Cat Stomach Cancer

Cat stomach cancer is a relatively uncommon type of cat cancer, but often symptoms aren't noticeable until the disease is quite progressed. There are several types of stomach cancer that affect cats, and some are more common that others. Here's what you should know about stomach cancer in cats.

Types of Feline Stomach Cancer

There are several types of feline stomach cancer, but the majority of feline stomach cancer cases are one of these three types:

  • Adenocarcinoma, which starts in glandular tissues and makes its way to the stomach and intestines, where it manifests as stomach tumors.
  • Lymphoma, which occurs when adenocarcinoma travels to the lymph nodes.
  • Mast cell tumors, which occur in the lining of the digestive tract. Mast cells play a role in immune function but when they become malignant they can devastate your cat's physical systems.

Symptoms of Stomach Cancer in Cats

Symptoms of stomach cancer in cats include:

  • Lethargy
  • Reclusiveness, often involving hiding from the owner
  • Dehydration
  • Anemia
  • Vomiting; there may often be blood in the vomit
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Tenderness in the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

In advanced cases of stomach cancer you will be able to feel the gastric tumors if you palpitate your cat's abdomen.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis of feline stomach cancer is based on a physical exam and one or more tests. Your vet will no doubt perform an X-ray or ultrasound to check for gastric tumors. He'll then perform a blood panel to check for elevated levels of white blood cells. A gastroscopy can often reveal the presence of gastric tumors and can help your vet obtain a sample for biopsy; exploratory surgery may be used to identify and possibly remove gastric tumors.

Because of the risk of damage to nearby organs, radiation therapy is not appropriate for the treatment of feline stomach cancer. Chemotherapy is largely ineffective. So far, the best treatment vets have for feline stomach cancer is surgical removal of tumors.

Your cat will need to be hospitalized before the surgery and stabilized with IV fluids. He'll need to remain on an IV and hospitalized for at least 24 hours following the surgery. Your vet will begin to reintroduce food 12 hours following surgery, beginning with a nutrient rich broth. If tissue removal has not been too extensive, your cat may begin to eat a diet of soft food 24 hours following surgery.

If your cat responds well to surgery and shows no sign of infection, he'll be able to come home 24 hours after the procedure. Your vet will give you home care instructions specifically tailored to your cat's needs. He'll also want to see your cat again to evaluate his recovery.

The prognosis for cat stomach cancer is usually poor, due to the fact that by the time stomach cancer is detected, the disease has usually metastasized to the lymph nodes and from there to other organs. Cats who undergo successful surgery for stomach cancer may gain an additional 12 to 14 months of life.