Cancer is a malignant, cellular growth called a tumor. Benign tumors are harmless; just an abnormal increase in size of a specific tissue. Cancer can affect any organ in a cat’s body, but cancer of the lymphatic tissue, skin and mammary glands are the three most common types of neoplasia (the pathological process that results in formation and growth of tumors) in cats.
Extensive research in human cancer diagnosis and treatment has changed the entire scene of cancer management. The good part is that the same protocols are reflected in treating feline cancer and cancer in dogs and other pets. There has also been an awareness of the role played by nutrition and alternative therapies in developing resistance to cancer and recovery.
Treatment for tumors is basically a matter of removal, killing or curbing the process of multiplication of cancer cells. There are various treatment options that one can consider.
It involves the use of drugs that inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Some medicines also kill cancerous cells. In many cases, cancer cells resemble normal cells, so they are also killed in the process. Cancer cells can also develop resistance to drugs over time and lie dormant, only to surface again after treatment is over. Unless newer drugs that can differentiate between normal cells and cancer cells are developed, drugs can only play a limited role in cancer treatment.
Total excision of the tumor usually cures the cat totally. In many cases, complete removal of the tumor is not possible due to metastasis to nearby vital organs. In such instances, a partial excision is done to reduce the size of the tumor. A follow-up surgery, drug or radiation therapy is used to curb the growth.
Radiation is used nowadays in conjunction with other therapies. It is a complex technique that involves the use of intense X-rays for targeting the area externally. The affected area is marked and rays are directed towards it. The process may have to be repeated at weekly intervals to minimize the risk of killing normal cells.
This is a procedure where extreme cold, usually liquid nitrogen, is applied to a tumor. A couple of rapid freezes and thaws with a contact applicator have given promising results in controlling malignant tumors, especially small nasal tumors.
Symptoms of different types of cancers like the symptoms of liver cancer in dogs usually mimic other mild conditions, delaying detection and early treatment. By the time it is detected, the cancer has usually metastasized and treatment becomes ineffective. Irrespective of the therapy employed, some cats do not survive for long. However, a targeted therapy can improve the quality of your pet’s life and give you satisfaction of knowing you have done all you could for the animal who has been your companion for years.