When the cat has cancer it often comes as a shock to the owners. Malignant lymphomas are very widespread in cats: They make up about 30% of all tumors in cats. But what is it? How does lymphoma develop and how can it be treated?

What is lymphoma

Feline Lymphoma: the Most Common Cancer in Cats 7

Lymphoma is a tumor (a place in tissue where cells in the body divide uncontrollably) that affects a certain type of cell called lymphoid cells. These cells are found in many organs and tissues in the body: the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, bone marrow, kidneys, skin, lungs, and the nervous system.

Lymphoma is a tumor that is particularly common in cats. It is the type of cancer that is most commonly diagnosed in our house cats.

Mediastinal, gastrointestinal, and multicenter lymphoma

There is not just one type of lymphoma, there are several that differ from one another depending on the organ affected.

  • Mediastinal lymphoma: affects the lymph nodes between the lungs, near the heart. This is the most common form.
  • Gastrointestinal lymphoma: located in the digestive tract in the abdomen. It is the second most common form.
  • The other types of lymphoma are less common and can affect the kidneys or spine.
  • There are also peripheral or multicenter lymphomas that affect several organs and tissue types at the same time.

Feline leukosis virus as a cause of lymphoma

Feline Lymphoma: the Most Common Cancer in Cats 8

Malignant tumors and cancer are often diseases that are difficult not only for our four-legged companions but also for us owners. Such diseases are referred to as multi-causal, which means that you cannot identify a single cause for the disease, but there are numerous factors that play a role.

A tumor, and therefore also a lymphoma, is not a contagious disease. It is a disorder in a specific type of cell, the appearance of which can be attributed to many different factors.

The most common reason is an infection with the feline leukosis virus (abbreviation: FeLV). This virus can lead to the formation of tumors.

In less common cases, it can also be an infection with the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

Feline lymphosarcoma: symptoms and pain

Unfortunately, the symptoms of lymphoma are very different. It can therefore be difficult for a veterinarian to diagnose this type of cancer. The most common symptoms are:

  • Great tiredness
  • Reduced or absent appetite
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Breathing problems
  • Indigestion

Warning: These are just a few examples of symptoms. Only a veterinarian can diagnose you after a detailed discussion with you and an examination of your cat and various additional tests.

Lymphoma: life expectancy of the cat

When the symptoms of a lymphoma appear, the cancer is often very advanced and the prognosis is unfortunately very bleak and the further life expectancy of the cat is greatly reduced. Unfortunately, if left untreated, it ends fatally in the days or weeks that follow. Euthanasia may be considered.

What examinations and analyzes are there to diagnose lymphoma?

Depending on your cat’s symptoms and clinical examination, the veterinarian may conduct additional analyzes that will allow them to make the diagnosis. For example, there is:

  • Tests to diagnose FelV and FIV;
  • Blood tests;
  • Medical imaging examinations: X-rays, ultrasound.

A reliable diagnosis can only be made after samples from diseased tissue have been analyzed in a special laboratory and the presence of lymphoid tumor cells has been proven.

Treat or euthanize your cat?

Feline Lymphoma: the Most Common Cancer in Cats 9

Treatment for cancer must be based on a well-considered decision. The diagnosis and prognosis for the further development of the disease are always a shock to the owners. But you have to manage to overcome this shock in order to make the best possible decision.

This “best possible decision” can only be made after having received as much information as possible. So don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian any questions that come to mind. It may also be wise to get a second opinion from a veterinarian who specializes in cancer. Again, you should communicate openly with your veterinarian. He can recommend a specialist colleague to you and provide him with a comprehensive report.

Therapeutic treatment for lymphoma depends on the following factors:

  • The place where it is;
  • Its stage of development;
  • Your cat’s age;
  • Your cat’s general health at the time of diagnosis.

There are different treatment methods: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy. Your veterinarian can explain these options to you in more detail and, most importantly, assess which of them may not be advisable in the case of your cat.

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