Radiation Treatment for Feline Lymphoma

Feline lymphoma also known as lymphosarcoma, manifests itself in malignant tumors in areas around the cat’s body. Since lymphocytes or lymph tissues are present all through the cat’s body lymphoma can develop in any location. The location of lymphoma is taken into consideration during the diagnosis and treatment options.

Types of Feline Lymphoma

  • Mutlicentric form
  • Mediastinal form
  • Alimentary form

Diagnosis of Feline Lymphoma

The diagnosis of feline lymphoma is important as it determines the severity of malignancy present. Diagnostic tests include an ultrasound, x-ray and fine needle aspirate testing. Cats suffering from feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus are more susceptible to lymphoma. Ultrasounds and x-rays can also determine the presence of lymphoma in other parts of the body.

Treatment for Feline Lymphoma

Lymphomas that are present in localized areas of the body can be removed surgically. Along with surgery, chemotherapy is necessary to reduce disease progression. Chemotherapy drugs are administered intravenously and the protocol is adjusted to individual patient needs. The drugs used in chemotherapy include cyclophosphamide, prednisone and doxorubicin. In addition to chemotherapy the vet may also administer radiation therapy to treat localized lymphoarcoma. Since individual pets respond differently to chemotherapy, the treatment can be adjusted after the initial response. Pets suffering from feline leukemia virus require aggressive treatment and don’t have good prognosis.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses photons or gamma rays to penetrate localized tumors and prevent abnormal cell division and metastasis. This therapy can be used in combination with chemotherapy or surgery. It slows down cancer progression and shrinks tumors after prolonged therapy. The vet will administer anesthesia to the cat prior to radiation therapy. The radiation machine is then focused on the location of the tumor. In order to determine the exact location of the tumor the vet will also perform MRI’s and scans. The duration and intensity of radiation therapy are decided during the diagnosis and after the initial response to radiation. Some types of radiation therapy can also be injected into the pet’s body to treat localized tumors.


Brachytherapy uses after-loading tubes to emit radiation therapy inside the tumor bed in pets. This therapy is performed after surgical removal of the tumor. The after-loading tubes are a surgically implanted and removed once the therapy is complete. However, not all tumors can be treated with brachytherapy because of their size or location. Pets treated with brachytherapy must be kept in isolation and should be treated by licensed practitioners.

Risks of Radiation Therapy

Although radiation therapy reduces and destroys abnormal cells, several normal cells are also affected due to the beams. The side effects of radiation therapy vary according to the location of treatment. Pets may experience itchiness and chronic side effects such as neurological problems and skin conditions. Pet owners should remember that radiation therapy is expensive and requires follow up vet checks to determine the pet’s response to treatment.

Although radiation therapy works effectively in many pets, it’s best when used in combination with surgery or chemotherapy.  Most treatment options slow the progress of cancer and help prolong the pet’s life.