Lung Tumors in Cats

Lung tumors in cats are more common in older cats, usually ones older than six years of age. Early detection and surgery can greatly improve the prognosis of cat lung cancer, but the disease is often misdiagnosed in the early stages. Here's what you should know about cat lung tumors and cat lung cancer.

Basic Facts about Cat Lung Tumors

Cat lung cancer may be a primary cancer, originating in the lungs, or a secondary cancer than has spread to the lungs from other organs. If the cancer is primary, it carries a better prognosis. Cancer that has already spread to one or more organs is difficult to treat effectively.

Lung tumors in cats usually develop between six and eighteen years of age, though the average age of onset of cat lung cancer is about ten years old. Lung tumors may appear on chest X-rays as ill-defined lesions in the lung tissue. The first symptom of cat lung tumors is usually a mild cough, similar to that associated with feline asthma. Because initial symptoms are mild, misdiagnosis of cat lung cancer in its early stages is common.

Symptoms of Cat Lung Tumors

Lung tumors in cats create symptoms similar to those of other respiratory diseases, like asthma, which is what makes the cancer so hard to diagnose accurately. In the beginning stages of primary lung cancer, your cat will experience mild coughing and wheezing. Changes in appetite and activity levels won't occur until later.

Misdiagnosis of cat lung cancer often occurs because vets fail to take chest X-rays when examining a cat with mild coughing and wheezing symptoms. Vets often misdiagnose the disease as feline asthma without taking chest X-rays, upon which the lung tumors would be clearly visible. If you have an older cat who displays mild coughing and wheezing symptoms, ask your vet to take chest X-rays. Early detection of lung tumors in cats greatly increases the patient's survival rate.

As the disease progresses, your cat will begin to experience dramatic weight loss and may have significant breathing difficulties. He may lose his appetite and become lethargic. Surgery at this stage often results in death from complications.

Treating Lung Tumors in Cats

Before deciding on a course of treatment, your vet will perform a range of tests to determine the state of your cat's health aside from the lung cancer. If your cat is otherwise in good health and the lung tumor is primary and is confined to one lobe of the lung, your vet will recommend surgery. If the tumor has spread throughout one or both lungs, surgery cannot be performed and the prognosis will be very poor. Chemotherapy is not very effective for the treatment of feline lung cancer. That's why early detection of the disease is so important, because surgical intervention before the cancer spreads too far is the only effective cure.

If your cat undergoes lung surgery, your vet may recommend post operative chemotherapy to prevent relapse.