Cancer cells are normal cells that, for whatever reason, have gone awry. These cells, unlike normal cells, tend to grow and infiltrate surrounding tissues. Cancer cells that spread to other areas of the body through the blood or lymph system are said to metastasize.
Cancer in animals is becoming more and more common (as our pets live longer and longer) and can occur at any age. Cancer in animals tends to favor the lungs and liver, and cancers that originate elsewhere often spread to these organs. Cancer can take the form of tumors that can be seen or felt, but often the tumors are inside the body, or involve the lymphatic system.
Cancers can spread quickly and thus early detection can significantly improve treatment. Depending on where the cancer is, you may be able to feel a lump somewhere on the body. If you at anytime feel a lump that is new or that has grown you should take your cat to the vet for an examination. It is not always clear what causes cancer however many possibilities include environment, diet, radiation, and genetic predisposition.
Symptoms to look for:
- Lump which can be seen or felt
- Lump which changes size, shape or color over time.
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Change in fur
- Stool or urine changes
- Blood in the urine
- Difficulty in breathing
- Bad Breath
- Abnormal discharge from the eyes, nose, ears or mouth
- Wounds that don’t heal
If you suspect cancer take your cat to the vet immediately. He/she will examine your cat to better determine if there is a cancer. Often the first stage of diagnosis is a blood test. Your vet will note any of the abnormalities you mention, and depending on the blood test results, will suggest further tests. Common diagnostic tools are X-rays, ultrasound and biopsies. If your cat does have cancer, depending on the type and severity of cancer your cat has, treatment varies and can include any of the following: drug therapy, surgery to remove the mass, chemotherapy, radiation. Some vets may also suggest immunotherapy. You may wish to talk to your vet about dietary supplements for your cat and/or any changes in diet that should be made. If caught early enough the survival rate for feline cancers is very good and cats don’t seem to take the treatment (chemotherapy and radiation) with as much difficulty as humans do.
Cancer prevention is difficult as the cause of most cancers is unknown. The best course of action is to keep your cat well fed and healthy. Cancers can be genetic so you may want to find out the mother’s history, if possible, when you adopt your pet.