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Tumors in Cats

Feline tumors are masses caused by abnormal cell growth. Tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) and can appear in all parts of the body. Sometimes they are in places where they can be felt from the outside, most often when you are petting or grooming your cat. Other times, they are inside the body, and you will not be able to notice the tumor itself. You will have to rely on other symptoms to know that something is wrong that needs to be addressed.

Types of Feline Tumors:

There are many types of feline tumors including:

  • Adrenal Tumor: 2 glands that sit on top of each kidney and produce cortisol, the substance that helps the body with stress. If too much cortisol is produced then your cat is suffering from a problem in the adrenal or pituitary glands such as an adrenal gland tumor.
  • Bone: Symptoms include a mass or swelling that often causes your cat to limp. This problem tends to be seen in older cats. If you cat starts walking with a limp have your veterinarian check for this problem.
  • Brain (feline brain tumor): Very rare condition and is often caused by a tumor in another part of your cats body such as feline lymphosarcoma which has spread to the brain and caused a feline brain tumor.
  • Ceruminous gland: These tumors are found in your cat’s ear and look like black spots (adenocarcionoma). Your veterinarian can determine if they need to be removed.
  • Esophagus: The esophagus carries food from the back of the throat (the pharynx) to the stomach. Cat esophagus tumors are rare and are usually seen in older cats. The condition occurs when lymph nodes (lymphosarcoma) expand and put pressure on the esophagus.
  • Eyelid: If you see a growth on your cat’s eyelid, see a veterinarian as these tend to be cancerous. The condition tends to be seen in older cats. If you cat has a white coat the type of cancer is called squamous cell cancer.
  • Kidney: Rare condition is cats that is usually associated with feline leukemia virus which is usually identified as the cause.
  • Lipoma: This tumor usually occurs on the body or limbs in the connective tissue just underneath the skin. The tumors can grow and become large.
  • Lung Tumors (feline lung tumors): This is not a common type of tumor in cats. Most are referred to as adenocarcinomas (75%), alveolar carcinomas (20%) and squamous cell carcinomas (2%).  Related symptoms are a cat that is coughing, loud breathing and appears to be having trouble breathing. Other symptoms that often appear years or months before respiratory problems can include weight loss, anorexia (appetite loss), and depression.
  • Mammary (Feline Mammary Tumor): This is the third most frequently occurring tumors in cats and can be seen in both males and females. Feline mammary tumors are seen in cats between age 10 and 12 and may require surgery and chemotherapy. They tumor type is called adenocarcinomas. Treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy and the medication Taxol (Paclitaxel), which has seen some success in treating cat mammary tumors.
  • Mast Cell Tumor (feline mast cell tumor or MCT): Mast cells exist in any part of the body that comes in contact with organisms that can cause harm such as the skin. When the cells are not reacting normally they form what is known as female mast cell tumors on the skin and beneath the skin. The tumors can appear as multiple skin lesions. MCT tumors are also found in the cat spleen and liver, which can also cause symptoms such as vomiting.  Surgery is the treatment method of choice to remove one or more MCT lesions. Corticosteroids and radiation are also used when surgical methods are unavailable. Spleen removal (splenectomy) can improve the cats survival time from 12 months to as long as 3 years.  If the mast cell tumors are found in the intestines, death usually occurs within 4 months.  Chemotherapy has not shown to be effective.
  • Nasal: These tumors usually appear inside one side of the nose. Signs include sneezing, sniffles and trouble breathing. You may also see bleeding and enlargement of one side of the face.
  • Nerve: Tumors in the nerve are rare . There are two types called schwannomas and neurofibromas.
  • Oral Cavity: Feline oral cavity tumors occur somewhere between the throat and lips. Symptoms include refusal to eat or other type of pain in the mouth. It the fourth most common form of cancer in cats.  The most common type of cat oral tumor is a squamous cell carcinoma that forms near the teeth or under the cats lounge. Tumors are usually diagnosed too late to be surgically removed, with treatment focused on maintaining the cats quality of life.  The tumors are thought to be formed in response to environmental conditions such as households that smoke or chemicals in flea collars.
  • Pituitary: The pituitary gland is located behind the eyes. Tumor growth places pressure on the eyes and the nervous system.
  • Salivary Gland: These tumors are rare and occurs in older cats. Symptoms are swelling or a lump on the side of the face or neck.
  • Spinal Cord: This condition is caused by feline lymphosarcoma. As the tumor grows it puts pressure on the spinal chord. Symptoms are some type of paralysis or weakness.
  • Skull (Cat skull tumors): This type of tumor is known as an osteosarcoma which is the most common type of “primary” tumor in cats. Your cat might experience pain and swelling at the site of tumor growth. The tumor might feel firm or soft. It is unusual for this cancer to spread.
  • Sweat Gland: These glands are at the base of your cat’s tail. Older cats sometimes develop a condition called adenoma.

Cat Tumor Symptoms

Cat tumor symptoms include, of course, a mass that you can feel on your cat’s body. This may feel like a small lump or bump or a swollen place on your cat’s skin. But sometimes your cat may have a tumor that you can’t feel from the outside. There are other symptoms of cancer that you might notice in your cat.

Feline tumor symptoms include:

  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty eating or swallowing
  • a distended stomach
  • chronic cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • a sore that does not heal
  • bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  • a change in the way your pet walks
  • difficulty urinating
  • bad breath

If you notice these symptoms in your cat, or if you feel a lump on her body, you should take her to the vet for a check up.


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Visit the Customer Experiences page to read inspiring stories of pets, including some dealing with feline tumors, who have benefited from the support Poly-MVA for Pets can provide.