Nasal Lymphoma in Cats

Nasal lymphoma in cats is characterized as a cancerous tumor present in the nasal passages. While there is no proof that nasal lymphoma occurs more commonly in males or females, it does seem to appear more commonly in senior cats. Although there is no cure for nasal lymphoma, there are some treatments available that can expand the life span of your cat.

What Causes Nasal Lymphoma in Cats?

The direct causes of cancer are always a mystery. However, with lymphoma, it is known that cats infected with feline leukemia are exposed to higher rates of developing lymphoma. Currently, around 20% of all cats who have lymphoma are also infected with the feline leukemia virus. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, or FIV, may also have a link to those cats with lymphoma.

Symptoms of Nasal Lymphoma in Cats

Symptoms of nasal lymphoma can sometimes be scarce. Other times symptoms are very pronounced. Here are some things to watch for:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Difficulty breathing through nasal passages
  • Increased attempts to breath through the mouth
  • Facial swelling
  • Discharge from the nose

Diagnosis of Nasal Lymphoma

Initially a physical examination may show the presence of swelling around the nasal passages. That will be a good indicator that further testing is needed. A complete blood count can be used to check white blood cell count and other vital statistics. Ultrasounds, x-rays and testing for the feline leukemia virus may also be performed. Because the feline leukemia virus is a common tie between cats with nasal lymphoma, it may be helpful in making an accurate diagnosis.

Ultimately, the most important part of diagnosis will be the performance of a biopsy. A portion of the nasal passage or suspected tumor will be biopsied and tested for the presence of non-uniform lymphoid cells. A biopsy will provide a more definitive diagnosis of nasal lymphoma.

Treatment of Nasal Lymphoma

Cancer is not a curable condition, but it is slightly treatable. Depending on many factors, such as the age of your cat and when the tumor was found, a cat can add anywhere for 4 months to 2 years or more onto their life span through treatment.

In most cases of nasal lymphoma, chemotherapy will be the only viable option. There is the possibility of laser and radiation treatments, but chemotherapy is the most widely used treatment. And although surgery can be performed, the prognosis is about the same as with chemotherapy, so it is not often used to treat nasal lymphoma. About 1/3 of cats will have their life span increased with the help of chemotherapy treatment.

Because lymphoma can be associated with feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, vaccinations against those viruses and limited contact with infected animals, can help reduce the likelihood of your cat developing lymphoma. Keep in mind, even with surgery or chemotherapy, there is always the chance of the lymphoma coming back or showing up elsewhere in the body. But the treatments that are available can add valuable time to your cat's life.