Among all the liver problems in cats, feline liver cancer is the one that is most dreaded by cat owners. Most of the times, the symptoms presented by a feline liver disease are ambiguous. Liver cancer may also accompanied by other ailments like pancreas diseases in cats, which make it difficult to diagnose. Even in the case of liver cancer, it is usually very late by the time specific indicative symptoms surface and cause alarm.
There is however some comfort in knowing that primary liver cancer is rare in cats. The incidence is as low as 2% of all types of feline cancer. Even when primary cancer does occur in cats, it mostly affects the epithelium, the membranous tissue covering internal organs. The most commonly seen liver cancers in cats are hepatocellular carcinomas and adenomas. Although both arise from liver cells, carcinomas are malignant in nature and adenomas are benign.
There is evidence of viral infections being linked with liver cancer in humans but this is not evident in cats. Primary liver cancer can be caused due to overexposure to carcinogens (chemicals that can potentially cause cancer). Most chemicals take their toxic form after they have gone through the metabolic process, which is one of the primary functions of the liver. Spoiled pet food, food additives, pesticides, dyes, plant and animal tissue are known for their connection with fungi. When these go through the detoxification process they tend to become more toxic.
The effects of liver cancer on the patient largely depend upon whether it is malignant or benign. Benign feline liver cancer does not spread to other parts of the body, is mostly localized and applies pressure on the neighboring organs at the most. The condition affects only if the benign tumor is large enough to encroach on the abdominal organs or burst and bleed. In rare cases they may cause a condition known as hypoglycemia, abnormally low blood sugar. The long term prognosis of benign cancer is fairly good. Most of the times, it is possible to surgically remove the growth. After this procedure is performed the cat generally returns to leading a normal life.
Hepatocellular carcinoma, on the other hand is malignant and can spread or metastasize beyond the liver and the neighboring parts. The average survival time of a cat with malignant liver cancer is about a year. In certain cases of carcinoma, it is possible to remove the cancerous portion by surgery. Malignant liver cancer that cannot be removed surgically due to severe involvement of the liver presents a major crisis and has a very poor prognosis.
Whether benign or malignant, once cancer is removed surgically you will be required to follow up the treatment with regular check-ups. Regular blood tests will be required to check liver enzyme levels, a major indicator of liver health. In cases of malignant cancer a series of radiographic or ultrasonic imaging may be required to assess the level of metastasis.