Low Grade Lymphoma in Cats

Low grade lymphoma is a cancer that can originate in any area of the body where lymph nodes are present. Unlike the high grade lymphoma, the low grade lymphoma has a slower evolution and typically, the prognosis is more favorable in cats that are diagnosed with this type of lymphoma. The low grade lymphoma may take the form of lymphocytic lymphoma and follicular small cleaved cell and follicular mixed lymphoma.

Types of Low Grade Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. There are several types of low grade lymphoma including:

  • Lymphocytic lymphoma
  • Follicular small cleaved cell lymphoma
  • Follicular mixed lymphoma

The type of lymphoma can be detected when a biopsy is performed. All of these types of lymphoma will develop slowly and if detected in a timely manner, they can be curable.

Causes of Low Grade Lymphoma

The causes of low grade lymphoma are not entirely understood. Older dogs tend to be more exposed to developing lymphoma. It is also not understood why certain lymphomas develop slower and other develop at a faster rate.

Some theories claim that lymphoma may develop as a consequence of immune system suppressant drug administration.

Symptoms of Low Grade Lymphoma

Low grade lymphomas develop slowly and will manifest through very subtle symptoms such as:

  • Increased frequency of diseases - this is due to the fact that the lymphatic system is part of the immune system and plays an important role in defending the body from diseases
  • Swollen lymph nodes- only the affected lymph nodes will be inflamed
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Depression
  • Elevated fever

In some cats, there will be no symptoms until the cancer is in a terminal stage.

Diagnosing Lymphoma

Lymphoma may be diagnosed by performing a biopsy of the tumor or aspirating some liquid from the affected lymph nodes. The malignant lymphocytes will have a round shape and will be cleaved. These cells are specific for low grade lymphoma. Larger cells will be present in the case of intermediate and high grade lymphoma. X-rays may be necessary to establish if the cancer is in an advanced stage.  

Treatment Options for Lymphoma

The treatment options will depend on the stage when the cancer is discovered. If discovered early enough, when the lymphoma only affects the lymph nodes, the tumor should be removed through surgery. With chemotherapy, the cat has high chances of recovery and may never experience a recurrence of the tumor. If the cancer is discovered when it has already expanded to other vital organs such as the lungs, the vet will not be able to perform surgery. In this case, only chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be applied, but the disease will progress and will be fatal. If left untreated, the cat will die within 2 to 6 months. During this time, the cancerous cells will invade the entire system of the pet and will eventually metastize in the lungs. Pain medication is necessary to reduce the dog’s discomfort.