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Common Tumours In Cats (Lymphoma)

Education > Cat Health & Behaviour 13th March 2019

Feline lymphoma is one of the most common tumours found in cats. It is the cancer of lymphocytes that circulate in the body. Due to their wide circulation, it is possible to have lymphoma in many parts of the body like the gastrointestinal tract (most common), nose, mediastinum (chest), trachea, kidneys, nervous system, skin and other lymph nodes. Cats with Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) have an increased risk of developing lymphoma.

Type 1 Gastrointestinal Lymphoma tends to involve intermediate to large cells which cause formation of very large masses in the GI tract. Cats tend to become very sick quite suddenly and the vet usually detects the masses when they feel the abdomen.

Cats with Type 2 Gastrointestinal Lymphoma tend to have less obvious masses in the abdomen. This is a slow progressive disease with spreads to the liver, spleen and lymph nodes.

Mediastinal Lymphoma involves the thymic gland and lymph nodes in the chest. A large mass may form with associated fluid around the lungs. Cats usually come in with breathing problems, appetite loss and weight loss, and sometimes, drooping of the eyelids or lips.

Nasal Lymphoma typically involves the nose cavity, sinuses and further into the pharynx. There may be diffused thickening or mass formation in the associated areas. Cats tend to present with congested noses, sneezing and teary discharge. There may be bloody nasal discharge and asymmetry of the face.

Lymphoma is diagnosed from complete blood count, bloodwork for organ function, FeLV/FIV tests, urine test, ultrasound, X-rays, and sometime advanced imaging like CT scan and MRI (for nasal or nervous system lymphoma). Samples may be taken and special stains used to confirm the type and severity of cancer.

Treatment options vary with the type of cancer. Cats that present with dehydration, appetite loss and breathing difficulties would require hospitalisation. Surgery is indicated for resectable masses while others may undergo chemotherapy. The outcome depends on the location of the cancer, type of treatment chosen and the cat’s response to treatment.

Dr Vanessa Sim, Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre (Clementi)