Lymphoma in the cat is a malignancy (cancer) of the hemolymphatic (blood and immune defense) systems. Cats may succumb to the effects of the burden of massive cancer growth in lymph nodes, liver, spleen, intestines and bone marrow, anemia, infection or cachexia (wasting). Atypical or unusual forms of the cancer may involve the skin, eyes or central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It is generally believed to be related to exposure to feline leukemia virus or, in some patients, feline immunodeficiency virus. Not all cats, however, are positive (producers) for virus infection at the time of disease development. Commonly, the younger cat with lymphoma or true leukemia is an active virus producer while the older cat with little chance of recent exposure is negative. Of course there are always exceptions and the virus infection may remain latent ( without causing disease) for many years. See issues one and two for a more complete discussion of feline leukemia (Felv) and feline immunodeficiency (FIV) infection.
The cat with lymphoma may demonstrate only very vague problems. Progressive lack of appetite, lethargy and weight loss are most common. Depending on which organs are affected, other signs such as chronic diarrhea, vomiting and difficulty in breathing may occur. Many diseases can cause these signs, and as with any problem, diagnosis should be based on examination by your veterinarian and appropriate tests. Diagnostic testing may involve blood tests, x-rays, ultrasound and biopsy procedures. In some cases surgery may be recommend for confirmation of diagnosis and possible initial treatment.
Many forms of lymphoma in the cat are treatable with surprisingly good initial results. Cure, however, is unlikely. Unfortunately the average survival of the cat with lymphoma is only six months. Every cat with lymphoma should be evaluated for prognosis based on clinical stage (an estimate of the progression and severity) of disease and appropriate treatment possibilities then determined. There will be individual animals that can survive for several years with a very good quality of life. There will also be those instances in which your veterinarian will find it difficult to recommend treatment due to very advanced disease. The major issues will involve prognosis, quality of life, availability and costs of appropriate treatment.
Chemotherapy is the most common form of treatment for lymphoma in the cat. If the cancer involves only limited sites radiation therapy, laser treatments and surgery can be performed in addition to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy treatments can be administered in a fairly convenient manner, generally as outpatient procedures during a scheduled visit. The drugs are usually given by injection, intravenously. Some can be given orally at home. Either single agent or combination drug treatment may be recommended in the individual cat depending on specific disease stage, the nature of the cat, and the knowledge and experience of the veterinarian. Consultation with a specialist is always advisable if possible.
Investigative treatments using immunotherapy and nutritional supplementation may also be available. In general, immunotherapy involves using agents to stimulate the defense system or initiate normal sequences of development in the immune cells of the body or in some cases, the cancer cells themselves. Nutritional supplementation using fish oil products, antioxidants and certain vitamins may also be considered. Again, these types of treatments are best recommended by a specialist.
Source: Leahy Animal Hospital with love.
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