It may seem unimaginable that your Miss Kitty could become ill with breast cancer, but the truth is, our beloved pets are not any more immune to cancer risks than we are. As with humans, cats can also develop tumors in the breast tissue. This disease is known in animals as mammary cancer, but it has similar signs, treatment, and recovery process as people with breast cancer.
“It’s a fairly common cancer, especially in unspayed female dogs and cats,” said Gerald Post, a veterinary oncologist at the Veterinary Oncology and Hematology Center in Norwalk, Conn. “It’s important for owners to spay female animals before the animal first goes into heat, because each following heat cycle increases the risk of developing the cancer.”
Mammary Cancer in Cats: Prevention is the Key
Prevention is the key when it comes to mammary cancer, especially in cats that are at a higher risk for the disease. Siamese cats seem to have a genetic predisposition for developing mammary cancer, as they are twice as likely to develop it as any other breed. This news is especially devastating to me, since my cat is Siamese. Also, while any female adult can develop this type of cancer, the average age is typically ten to fourteen years old.
Because unspayed females are at a greater risk of developing mammary cancer, you can lower that risk by having your kitten spayed before her first heat. With every heat cycle that your cat goes through, she will be at greater risk to develop mammary cancer than a cat that was spayed before her first cycle. Besides spaying, you can help reduce your cat’s risk of cancer by helping her lead a healthy life and feeding her good food.
Signs Your Cat May Have Mammary Cancer
Mammary cancer cannot be completely avoided in all cases, however. If you notice any of the following signs in your cat, take her to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible: abnormal swellings that continue to grow, sores that do not heal, weight loss, loss of appetite, bleeding or discharge from any body opening, an offensive odor, difficulty eating, a loss of stamina, stiffness, or difficulty breathing, urinating, and defecating.
According to ABC News, ninety percent of mammary tumors in cats are cancerous. Veterinarians say that these types of tumors are similar to the more aggressive forms of human breast cancer. If you cat is diagnosed with mammary cancer, the initial treatment may be successful, but the long-term outcome could be guarded.
Unlike in humans, cancer in pets is usually detected in the more advanced stages. Once your cat is diagnosed, she may only survive less than a year. Cats who receive aggressive treatment on smaller tumors caught early on may live for up to two or three years. Unfortunately, up to sixty-five percent of surgically removed tumors reoccur within a year.
Removal of the Mammary Tumor
Pets with mammary cancer generally follow the same or similar treatment and recovery process as people with breast cancer. Surgery is typically used to remove the tumor and surrounding mammary gland. Some surgeons will even remove the entire mammary gland chain.
Once the tumor is removed, it will need to be identified to help determine whether further treatment is necessary. Chemotherapy is commonly used on mammary cancer patients, in combination with the surgical removal of the tumor. This will help increase your pet’s chance of survival.
Unfortunately, our pets are no more immune to mammary cancer than humans are to breast cancer. Yes, your cat may be at risk of developing a tumor, especially is she is Siamese, ten years or older, and if she wasn’t spayed before her first heat. You can help avoid mammary cancer in your cat by having her spayed and helping her lead a healthy life. Finally, watch for any signs or symptoms that your cat may have developed a tumor in her breast tissue.
Dogs, Cats Not Immune to Breast Cancer, Abc.com
Mammary Cancer in Cats, PetEducation.com
**Note: This author does not claim to be a veterinary professional, and this article is not intended to be used in place of professional medical advice. If your pet is displaying symptoms of a tumor or illness, please consult with your veterinary clinic immediately.