Lymph Cancer in Cats

Lymph cancer is a malignant form of cancer also known as lymphoma or lymphosarcoma. While it is one of the most common types of feline cancer, it is also one of the most successfully treated types of feline cancer. However, in order for treatment to be effective and to enhance a cat’s prognosis, the cancer must be detected early on. Therefore, it is imperative that cat owners be aware of signs and symptoms that could be indicative of lymph cancer in cats.

Overview of Cat Lymph Cancer

The immune systems functions are the cat’s primary defense against infection, disease and environmental elements that could be potentially harmful. Within the immune system are leukocytes, or white blood cells. These cells are found in various different organs of the cat’s body, including the spleen, lymph nodes and tonsils. The function of these leukocytes is to protect the cat against infection and to fight against infection when it is detected.

Lymph cancer in cats occurs when these leukocytes are infiltrated with malignant tumors that prohibit their normal function and immune-fighting power. Keep in mind that lymph cells are found throughout the entire body within the lymphoid system, so the potential for this type of cancer to metastasize, or travel, is great. For this reason, successful treatment of lymph cancer in cats begins with early detection.

Symptoms of Lymph Cancer in Cats

It is of the utmost importance that lymph cancer be detected early enough so that the cat has a fighting chance at life. In order for that to happen, cat owners must be cognizant of the signs and symptoms that could indicate lymph cancer. It is also important to note that cats affected by the feline leukemia virus are 60 times more likely to develop lymph cancer, so that is something to keep in mind when reviewing the symptoms.

The symptoms of lymph cancer are dependent upon which area of the cat’s body is affected. Here are some of the things that cat owners should be aware of:

  • If the digestive tract is affected, symptoms may include unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, stomach upset and vomiting.
  • If the kidneys are affected, symptoms may include excessive thirst, increased frequency of urination and decreased appetite.
  • If the chest is affected, symptoms may include difficulty breathing or quick breathing.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Lymph Cancer

Initially, a complete blood count, some blood chemistry tests and x-ray imaging will be done to assess the overall health condition of the cat. The x-ray images may also give way to abnormalities found within the lymph tissue of the body, providing an area of identification for biopsy. A biopsy can then be done, and the biopsied tissue is then sent for evaluation where it can be determined whether or not there is any malignancy.

Treatment of lymph cancer in cats is generally done with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs used may include prednisone, vincristine, doxorubicin or chlorambucil, or a combination of all drugs. Statistically, about 50% to 70% of cats respond well to chemotherapy treatments and can endure a 20- to 30-month period of remission.