Feline Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer in cats often remains undiagnosed until the disease has progressed significantly. Like other types of feline cancer, stomach cancer carries a poor prognosis when diagnosed in the later stages of the disease. However, stomach cancer is one of the least common feline cancers.

Types of Feline Stomach Cancer

Several types of stomach cancer occur in cats, but some are quite rare. Some of the most common forms of feline stomach cancer include:

  • Mast cell tumors, which occur in the mast cells of the feline digestive tract. These cells are a crucial part of your cat's immune system. However, sometimes they begin to grow out of control and become tumors. When this happens, they can cause severe damage to your cat's stomach and intestines.
  • Adenocarcinoma starts in your cat's glands. It then spreads to the stomach and intestines where it causes large gastric tumors.
  • Lymphoma occurs when adenocarcinoma spreads to the lymph nodes, and can also happen when cancer originates in the lymph nodes.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Feline Stomach Cancer

Symptoms of feline stomach cancer usually don't appear until the disease is in its late stages. Symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Tumors large enough to feel
  • Avoidance behaviors
  • Lethargy
  • Bloody vomit
  • Dehydration
  • Anemia
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite

Your vet will conduct a number of tests to determine if your cat is suffering from feline stomach cancer. Tumors may appear on an ultrasound or X-ray, but your vet will want to perform a biopsy to determine if the tumors are malignant. He'll do this by performing a gastroscopy, a procedure in which your vet will anesthetize your cat and examine his stomach with an endoscope; he'll use the opportunity to gather cell samples of the gastric tumor or tumors.

Exploratory surgery may also be necessary to confirm the existence of gastric tumors. Exploratory surgery sometimes also presents the opportunity to remove some or all of the tumors.

Feline Stomach Cancer Treatment and Prognosis

Radiation therapy isn't used to treat cat stomach cancer because of the risk of damage to other organs. Chemotherapy treatments are not effective in treating this kind of cancer.

The most effective treatment for cat stomach cancer is surgery. Your cat will need to be stabilized with IV fluids prior to surgery and may need IV antibiotics. The surgery itself will remove any cancerous tissue from the stomach and surrounding organs.

Your cat will need to remain in a veterinary clinic or hospital, on an IV drip, for 24 hours following stomach cancer surgery. Depending on the extent of the surgery, he will be gradually reintroduced to solid food during this period. You can take your cat home after the first 24 hours, as long as his vital signs are strong and there's no sign of infection. Your vet will schedule follow up appointments to monitor your cat's progress as he heals from stomach cancer surgery.

If surgery is successful and all of the cancerous tissue is removed, your cat could live for an additional 12 to 14 months after diagnosis.