Transitional Cell Carcinoma in Cats

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Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) affects the cat's bladder. This is an extremely rare cancer; only 0.8 percent of abnormal masses involve this form of cancer. There is a strong belief that the cancer is caused by exposure to carcinogens and exposure to over-the-counter flea and tick control products. It's also been discovered that cyclophosphamide (a chemotherapy agent) causes TCC. Obesity may increase your cat's risk.

The average age of a cat diagnosed with TCC is fifteen years. By the time most cats are found to have this cancer, they've lived a long life. Cats with TCC have a median survival time of approximately eight months after diagnosis.

Development of Transitional Cell Carcinoma

The inside of a bladder is lined with transitional cells. These cells protect the bladder wall from acidic urine. Because the urine expands and contracts as it empties and fills, the cells must also expand and contract. This is why the cells are called “transitional” cells; they move with the bladder.

Transitional cell carcinoma occurs when a tumor forms within these cells. The location of the tumor varies in cats. In dogs it generally forms near the neck, blocking the urethra. With cats, there is no set location. It may be near the ureters (tube linking the kidneys to the bladder) or the opening of the urethra. The tumor is malignant and aggressive and will spread to other organs.

Common Symptoms of TCC

The two most common symptoms of transitional cell carcinoma are straining when urinating and blood in the urine. Your cat may make frequent trips to the litter box and little to no urine passes. These are also the most common symptoms of a urinary tract infection.

Other symptoms include:

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Coughing spells

  • Fever

  • Lack of appetite and thirst

  • Lack of energy

  • Straining during a bowel movement

  • Vomiting

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian. Do not assume it is a UTI and try an herbal or homeopathic remedy. The tumor can block urine flow, which leads to a dangerous condition called uremia.

Diagnosing TCC

X-rays rarely pick up tumors. Contrast radiography is a better option, but involves using a catheter to inject dye into the bladder. Ultrasound is the kindest method for diagnosing transitional cell carcinoma. If a mass is spotted, a needle would be used to remove a sample of cells for a biopsy.

Possible Treatment Plans

The life expectancy for a cat with bladder cancer is not great. Surgical removal of the bladder is not a possibility, though some vets can remove a portion of the bladder. This is only possible if the tumor is extremely small.

There is a surgical procedure to remove the bladder completely and reroute the ureters to the colon. Urine will then mix with feces. This surgery is expensive and risky, so it's not often recommended.

Some cases of feline bladder cancer go into partial remission when the cat takes Feldene. The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine may be worth a shot.

Chemotherapy and radiation are usually better options. Your cat will need a permanent catheter inserted into the bladder. You will need to manually empty your cat's bladder through the catheter at least three times a day.


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