Malignant Tumors in Cats

Tumors in cats are caused by an abnormal cell growth, and can occur in any part of the body. The tumors may be benign, which means that they cause no harm. Tumors can also be cancerous or malignant, which can be very dangerous and requires removal or medication.

Causes of Tumors in Cats

There is no determined cause for tumors. The abnormal cell growth can be linked to old age, diet or a toxic environment (such as a smoking environment).

Types of Tumors in Cats

Malignant tumors may be of different types, depending on where they are located:

  • Adrenal tumors, affecting the glands that produce cortisol in the body
  • Bone tumors
  • Brain tumors: Tumors rarely originate in the brain; typically, the tumor spreads from other parts of the body to the brain
  • Esophagus
  • Eyelids
  • Lungs
  • Liver
  • Kidneys: The condition is typically associated with the feline leukemia virus
  • Mammary
  • Reproductive system
  • Spinal cord tumors, caused by lymphosarcoma: this may cause paralysis in cats
  • Skull tumors, or osteosarcomas
  • Skin

Symptoms of Tumors in Cats

Tumors can be located on the cat's skin or under it, so it may be felt while petting your cat. However, some tumors are hidden and can only be detected though testing. Cats with malignant tumors will present the following clinical signs:

  • Refusal to eat
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chronic coughing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Sores or lesions that take long to heal and may also bleed
  • Halitosis
  • Moles that start growing rapidly and get unusual shapes and change color
  • Limping, if the tumors affect the bones
  • Elimination difficulties
  • Depression and behavior changes

Diagnosing Malignant Tumors in Cats

Malignant tumors may be diagnosed through x-rays, ultrasounds and possibly a biopsy of the excess grown cells. Blood tests may reveal tumors that are located in less visible areas (such as the liver). CT scans or an MRI will be needed to diagnose brain or skull tumors.

The vet will establish if the tumor is benign or malignant. Typically, benign tumors grow at a very slow rate, while malignant tumors develop rapidly and the cancerous cells spread to different parts of the body. A thorough physical examination is also needed to determine the origin of the tumor and the affected areas.

Treatment Options

Once detected, cats with malignant tumors should receive intensive treatment. If possible, the tumor will be surgically removed. However, this will not guarantee that the tumor won’t grow back. Surgery may be successful if combined with medication.

Chemotherapy is given to stop the multiplication of the cancerous cells and to stop them from attacking vital organs such as the lungs. 

Radiation therapy is also recommended and this will relieve the pain.

The cat must be under permanent supervision. If the tumor was removed, the vet will monitor the cat to see if it reoccurs.

The cat may also receive a special diet and some dietary supplements that can help in improving his condition.