Treating Feline Lymphoma with Surgery

Feline lymphoma is common in older pets and develops in any part of the body. Kittens infected with feline leukemia virus (FeLV) were initially susceptible to lymphoma at an early age. However, pets are now vaccinated for FeLV and this in turn reduces their risk of developing lymphoma. Feline lymphoma is a malignant tumor that occurs in the lymphocytes and surrounding tissues in pets. It presents itself in 3 different forms, and the type of lymphoma is often determined by the symptoms exhibited. The treatment for feline lymphoma is based on the type and severity of cancer present.

Forms of Lymphoma Include:

  • Multicentric form
  • Mediastinal form
  • Alimentary form

Diagnosis of Feline Lymphoma

The vet will perform a thorough physical examination and look for swollen lymph nodes or glands. After careful consideration of the clinical symptoms, the vet will perform an ultrasound or an x-ray to determine any internal abnormalities. Blood tests often reveal low blood counts and the presence of anemia. Before treating pets for feline lymphoma, it's necessary to know if the cat is suffering from any underlying health conditions. The diagnosis can be confirmed by performing a fine needle aspirate test or a biopsy.

Treatment of Feline Lymphoma

After a proper diagnosis, the vet will determine if the cancer is localized to a specific area of the body or if it has spread to internal organs and tissues. The most commonly used treatment procedure is chemotherapy. Radiation therapy can also be used in combination with chemotherapy to treat the tumors. Surgery is performed on pets that have localized tumors that are easily accessible.

Surgery for Feline Lymphoma

Surgery is possible if the tumor is present as a growth and is well defined. The cat will be anesthetized before surgery and the tumor is extracted after determining its exact location with the help of x-rays and ultrasounds. Surgery is not performed if the tumor is associated with an internal organ or puts the cat at risk. Once surgery is performed, the vet may use radiation therapy to kill cancerous cells or tissues that couldn't be removed during surgery. Radiation therapy is very effective, as it uses photons or gamma rays to penetrate the nucleus of malignant cells or tumors and destroy them. Radiation therapy also prevents the discomfort and pain caused by feline lymphoma.

Surgery and Biopsy 

Cats that suffer from gastrointestinal tumors can develop an intestinal blockage, which is a life-threatening situation. Surgery is required for such conditions in order to prevent death. Often, the biopsy is performed during removal of the tumor. Since inflammatory bowel disease is often confused with intestinal tumors, the only way to determine either condition is by performing a full thickness biopsy. This involves the surgical extraction of the affected part in the intestine.

Post Surgery

Although surgical extraction of the tumor eliminates malignant cells, the cat requires chemotherapy medication to prolong survival and reduce the progress of lymphoma. The most common drugs used in chemotherapy are prednisone, doxorubicin, vincristine and cychlophosphamide. The treatment protocol varies according to the grade of feline lymphoma and the pet's initial response to treatment.

Most cats respond favorably to chemotherapy. It increases their survival time by nearly one year on average. Pet owners should work with the vet to determine the best treatment option suited to the cat in order to prevent pain and discomfort