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What to Know About Cancer in Cats

What to Know About Cancer in Cats

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for the treatment of cancer in our feline friends. This makes it important to know the typical signs that accompany this type of condition so you can contact your vet. Here, our vets in Springfield share some useful information about cancer in cats including the signs and different types.

What You Should Know if Your Cat Has Cancer

In order to best protect themselves your cat will hide any signs of illness or pain that they may be experiencing. Unfortunately, this means that your cat may be adept at hiding the symptoms of cancer as well until their condition is already quite advanced,

Knowing some of the most common signs of various cancers seen in cats can help pet parents detect the earliest signs of the disease right away and seek veterinary care for their four-legged friend. Cancer, like other conditions, is best managed at its earliest stages.

What are the symptoms of cat cancer?

Because there are many different types of cancer, there will also be many different symptoms that your cat can experience. Here are some of the typical symptoms that are common among many different types of cancer:

  • Lumps on your cat's skin that are changing appearance
  • Lack of energy
  • Change of personality
  • Stiffness
  • Rapid weight gain or weight loss
  • Reduced appetite
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Difficulty eating
  • Change in litter box use, struggling to pass urine or feces, diarrhea 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Smelly breath

If you begin to notice any of the symptoms listed above you should reach out to your vet today for a referral to have your cat seen by our veterinary oncologist in Springfield.

If your vet suspects that your cat has cancer they will focus on diagnosis, pain management, treatment, and, if necessary, palliative treatment to maintain your cat's quality of life for as long as possible.

What are the different types of cancer seen in cats?

The vet specialists in our department for pet oncology in Springfield see cats with many different forms of cancer including:


As one of the most commonly diagnosed feline cancers, lymphoma has the ability to affect the lymphocytes (a kind of blood cell) and lymphoid tissues situated in many places throughout the body (e.g. lymph nodes, liver, bone marrow). It can be caused by other conditions such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Lymphoma can affect cats of any age, breed, or sex, with the gastrointestinal tract being the most commonly affected area of the body. 

Treatment options include chemotherapy, which most cats can tolerate with minimal side effects. In about 70% of feline patients, chemotherapy resulted in less presence of cancer (remission). 

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SSC)

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is found in the cells of the oral cavity and is the most frequently seen kind of oral tumor in cats. The signs of SSC in felines usually show as dental problems (drooling, oral odor, dental bleeding, difficulty eating) that are examined by a veterinary professional who can identify SSC via biopsy.

Although surgery is recommended to address SSC in cats, unfortunately, cats' mouths are quite small in relation to the size of the tumor by the time it is usually diagnosed. If surgical intervention is deemed appropriate, sections of the upper or lower jaw will likely be removed to reduce the likelihood of cancer invading other, deeper structures of the mouth.

Radiation and chemotherapy treatments are other options – but sadly, the majority of cats with SSC cannot be cured. If this is the case, the focus of your pet's compassionate veterinary team will be on keeping your feline friend as comfortable and pain-free as long as possible.


Fibrosarcoma is a cancer that affects the soft tissues of the body and although slow to spread, is aggressive in the areas in which it takes hold. This cancer usually shows physical symptoms in the form of skin lumps or masses that don't seem to cause the cat pain. In more advanced cases, cats will show signs of dehydration, lethargy, and poor appetite. 

Surgery is the usual initial treatment for fibrosarcoma, but it is likely that the tumor will return even with particularly aggressive removal of the growth. Because of this, radiation or chemotherapy is often recommended concurrently. With successful treatment, cats with this condition can live without the disease for 1 - 2 years.

Mammary Tumors

It may surprise you to know that mammary (breast) cancer is also a common cancer in cats, with up to 90% of mammary tumors being malignant (having the potential to spread to other body parts). More advanced cases can see the tumors spread to lymph nodes and lungs, which is why early detection is key. 

Surgically removing the mammary tumor, especially if the growth is small, is the most effective treatment. If the cat's condition has progressed (i.e. tumors are large, or lymph nodes are affected) then post-surgery chemotherapy might be advised by your veterinarian or veterinary oncologist. 

How Early Detection Can Be Vital to the Outcome

Take preventive steps such as preventive mammary cancer by having your female cat spayed, getting your kitty vaccinated against feline leukemia, and ensuring they attend their routine veterinary checks to keep an eye on their overall health. Since there are several cancers for which the causes are unknown, early detection is your best tool. You and your vet are the first line of defense along with our vet oncology department. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you would like to learn more about getting a referral to our department for vet oncology in Springfield to see our specialist, please contact our vet center today.

New Patients & Referrals Welcome

The Regional Veterinary Referral Center is accepting new patients in emergency situations or by referral! Our experienced specialists are passionate about the health of Springfield pets. Contact us today to learn more.

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