An Introduction to Cancer in Cats

Cancer in cats can be idenitified by a lump of cancerous tissue, called a tumor. A benign tumor may mutate into a malignant tumor. Malignant tumors form long tendrils that can break off and spread through the blood stream. If malignant tissue gets lodged elsewhere in the body, it can then form another tumor.

Lymphoma in Cats

Cancer can affect any area of the body, so different types of cancer are distinguished by where the cancer starts in the body. The most common type of cancer for cats is lymphoma, or cancer that originates in the lymph system. Cats are usually affected in the lymph nodes around their intestines, but lymph nodes are present all over the body, and they can all be affected by lymphoma. Since lymph nodes are part of the immune system, the immune system in cats with lymphoma is severely compromised, making this type of cancer particularly fatal.

Cat Cancer Treatment

Cancer in cats is usually treated with one or a combination of three methods: surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.

Surgical treatment of cancer involves simply cutting the tumors out.

In radiation therapy, high energy X-rays are focused on a tumor, which kills the cancerous tissue. It is only used for localized areas, because the radiation can also kill healthy tissue.

Chemotherapy involves flooding the body with poisons specifically designed to target cancer cells. This is the most effective method of eliminating cancer from the body, but it is also the most uncomfortable. While the chemicals used in chemotherapy are designed to kill cancer cells, many other cells are also killed.

Benign tumors can usually be treated with surgery, and sometimes radiation therapy is used to reduce the size of a benign tumor before surgery, or kill tumor cells left in the body after surgery. If a tumor is too deep in the body to use surgery, or is part of a vital organ that cannot be safely cut into, radiation therapy can be used to stop the tumor's growth. Chemotherapy is usually only used if the cancer is malignant. Surgery and radiation therapy are not appropriate for malignant cancer because it spreads so quickly through the body, and they are only local treatments.

Cancer is a very serious health condition for any mammal, including cats. If you notice a growing lump on your pet, it may be a tumor. The best way to survive cancer is to detect it and treat it early, so if you suspect that your pet has cancer, contact the veterinarian as soon as possible.