Symptoms of intestinal cancer in cats and how to treat them

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By Tess Thompson

Intestinal cancer causes symptoms that are similar to an inflammation or obstruction in the intestinal passage. This makes early detection a difficult task. Although they form a small percentage of all feline cancers and cancers in dogs, prognosis ranges from poor to bad depending upon the location of the tumor.

The common types of cancers that can develop in a cat’s intestines include:

  • Lymphoma - A neoplasm of lymph tissue that is most predominant in cats.
  • Mast Cell Neoplasia – A cancer that causes single or multiple lesions in the small intestines.
  • Adenocarcinoma – A malignant tumor that originates from the glandular epithelium.
  • Other Intestinal Neoplasms – Examples include rectal and colon tumors.

Lymphoma is the most common form of intestinal tumors in cats, followed by carcinomas and mast cell tumors. Like the symptoms of liver cancer in dogs, intestinal tumors in cats also remain concealed due to the general nature of symptoms. Tumors located in different areas of the intestine have different manifestations.

  • Tumors of Duodenum and Small Intestines
  • Vomiting - chronic or acute
  • Diarrhea - abnormally dark tarry feces containing blood
  • Weight loss
  • Colon and Rectal Tumors
  • Painful spasm of the anal sphincter along with an urgent desire to defecate without the significant production of feces
  • Passage of stools containing blood

As with most types of feline cancers, intestinal cancer is commonly treated with surgery or chemotherapy. Most of the intestinal tumors are difficult to remove surgically because of their size. Even after surgery, the survival time is limited. Local recurrence or metastasis leads to an early death. Chemotherapeutic drugs have a minimal affect on adenocarcinomas.

Lymphomas in cats are mostly treated by chemotherapy. But even expensive and systemic chemotherapy is unable to improve the median survival time of two months. High doses of radiation are used for shrinking rectal tumors. The rectum is sutured, and rays are directed to the visible tumor that may increase the survival time to 12 months.

A vast majority of intestinal neoplasms are malignant. Abdominal serosa (a thin membrane lining with two layers filled with serous fluid), lymph nodes and the liver are the most commonly affected sites when it spreads in cats. By the time the cancer is diagnosed, in most cases it has already advanced to an incurable stage.

The cause of intestinal cancer is unknown, but if you take good care of your cat by protecting her from ingesting carcinogenic food and substances right from the day you bring her home, it may, to a great extent, prevent the occurrence of this highly aggressive cancer. Although relatively less common, it may give rise to thoughts of euthanasia once it develops in your cat.


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