Tumours are abnormal swellings which can occur on any part of the body. Should your cat appear off-colour, then an early veterinary diagnosis is recommended. Although cats are less prone to superficial skin tumors than dogs, they may suffer growths of this type following prolonged exposure to sunlight will assist the growth of tumours. It may caused by infection with Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV). This usually affects the intestines, kidneys or the thymus gland in the chest. Although surgery can help a cat in the short term, there is always a risk that the tumour may spread elsewhere in the body.
SYMPTOMS OF TUMORS IN CATS
Other fairly non-specific symptoms may include lack of vitality and loss of appetite, although these can be linked with other illnesses as well. There are also likely to be other more localised indications, which will suggest the source of the problem to your vet. If the thymus gland is affected, it will have increased in size, so the cat will probably be having difficulty in breathing. A fluid build-up in the chest is also common in such cases, worsening the situation.
An unusual feature of this particular type of lymphosarcoma affecting the thymus is that it is more common in younger cats. However, generally there is an increased risk of tumours arising in older cats. Although many of these tumours are likely to be malignant (cancerous) and will spread, others are termed ‘benign’, and will remain localised. Diagnosis of a tumour depends partly on where in the body it is located. Various methods may be employed by a vet for this purpose, ranging from direct palpation —feeling for the swelling — through to an X-ray examination, or even exploratory surgery.
Approximately eight out of ten tumours fall into the category of malignant. Tumours affect about three cats in every thousand. Lymphosarcomas are the most common types of tumour recorded in cats, accounting for nearly a third of all cases, with four out of ten sufferers being less than three years old. Infection with the Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) is perhaps the most common cause of tumours in cats.
This may be possible partly from its structure. Malignant tumours tend to be more invasive, binding more tightly into the surrounding tissue. But the only sure way is for a biopsy sample to be examined under a microscope, to reveal the structure of the cells.
What other types of treatment are available? Cryosurgery is valuable for skin tumours, for example. A liquid nitrogen probe is used to freeze and kill the affected tissue. With the cancerous cells dead, hopefully healthy skin will regenerate in due course. Direct surgery, to cut out the tumour, may often be used while, in some cases, radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be tried, although these two forms of treatment are more specialised.