Prevalence, Prognosis and Prevention of Breast Cancer in Cats

By Tess Thompson

Breast cancer constitutes almost all of glandular feline cancers and up to 80 to 96% of all malignant tumors in cats. It is also the third most common form of cancer in cats after lymphoid and skin cancers. Although breast cancer in cats is not breed specific, Siamese and Japanese breeds are more vulnerable than others. Obesity also seems to be a high risk factor. Spayed cats, however, carry a significantly reduced risk of developing mammary tumors.

Mammary tumors may either be floating or attached to the skin or the underlying muscles and are commonly found in the front set of mammary glands. Swelling, pain or infection in the glands and fever are among the most common symptoms that may indicate prevalence of mammary tumors.

Unless your cat has developed a mammary gland hyperplasia, diagnosis is a simple affair as a mass arising out of the glands can be felt or seen around the nipples. The stage to which breast cancer has advanced is normally established with the aid of laboratory examinations, chest X-rays or other tests that may be essential. Bilateral radical surgery, which is the removal of both the mammary chains, is the most recommended treatment for mammary tumors. Follow up of the surgery requires a consultation with a veterinarian oncologist as chemotherapy drugs require proper administration and regular monitoring of side effects.

Mammary tumors, like all other glandular tumors are aggressive in nature and tend to spread to lungs and surrounding lymph node. If not detected and treated early, a mammary tumor can even spread to distant organs. Like any other kind of cancer in dogs, the size of the tumor plays a significant role in the prognosis. Average survival time for cats with a mammary tumor of less than 3 cm is reported to be 21 months and 12 months for those with larger tumors.

It may be difficult to prevent breast cancer in cats. Sometimes it is caused by progesterone or similar drugs used to treat behavioral disorders and military dermatitis, a common occurrence in cats and other pets. The strong correlation between spaying and breast cancer suggests that an early spaying can help in prevention.

Prognosis of breast cancer, like any other type of cancer, can improve with early treatment. Early treatment depends upon early detection. Signs of breast cancer are not as difficult to notice as other types, like the symptoms of liver cancer in dogs. Along with regular checkups by a veterinarian, owners should monitor the skin around the mammary area for unusual lumps. It may amount to saving the life of your cat.


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