Speaking of cats, although there are also cases in cats, almost a third of all tumors that can suffer appear in the mammary area.
Under the term breast tumor there are a large number of tumors of different cellular origin, which can appear in the mammary chain of cats (they can be both benign and malignant).
Mammary gland tumors are usually malignant, meaning they are cancerous and rapidly metastasize, or spread to nearby lymph nodes or other areas of your cat’s body.
Some studies have shown that more than 85% of mammary tumors in cats are cancerous, which increases the probability that it is a life threatening situation.
The mammary tumors in female cats often affect middle – aged to older (around 10 years).
Next, I will explain to you what are breast tumors in cats , as well as the symptoms and treatment.
What is a breast tumor or cancer?
If you have verified that your cat has swollen breasts , you should be concerned.
First, tell you that female cats have 4 pairs of mammary glands (thoracic, cranial, abdominal, caudal abdominal, and inguinal). The glands most commonly affected by these tumors are the thoracic and inguinal glands.
These mammary glands are female organs that produce milk to feed kittens. The glands on each side are drained by nearby lymph nodes in the armpit and groin.
This is a tumor that originates in the cells of the mammary glands. Most breast tumors are potentially or already malignant, so early surgical removal is important to prevent the spread to other parts of the body (metastasis). A cat can have multiple tumors, sometimes of different types, within the various mammary glands.
Of these cancerous tumors, most are adenocarcinomas , a type of cancer that affects the epithelial cells located under the outer layer of breast tissue. Given the rapid growth and spread rate of these tumors, veterinary care must be a priority and urgent.
Tumors spread from the mammary glands to local lymph nodes and then to the chest, brain, bones, and even the spleen.
Symptoms of breast cancer in cats
Among the signs that will help you detect the existence of a tumor in your cat’s breasts would be:
- Swelling of the breasts or mammary glands.
- Infection in and around the glands and sinuses.
- Sores that won’t heal
- Lack of desire to eat.
- Pain and fever
- Ulceration of the skin around the breasts.
- Clear, bloody, or milky discharge from the cat’s nipples.
- Dead (necrotic) tissue where the tumor is.
- Unexplained weight loss and weakness.
Risk factors for mammary tumors in cats
- The chances are greater when they get older. The more divisions a cell undergoes, the more likely a mutation is, which is why the tumor is more common in older cats .
- The race. Siamese cats are very exposed. They also tend to develop breast tumors at a younger age than other breeds.
- Giving sex hormones to a cat increases the incidence. Several studies highlight the probable involvement of estrogen and progesterone in the mammary gland tumor.
- The hormonal state. That the cats are “whole” is a risk factor. If the ovaries and uterus are removed by sterilization at a young age, there will be less risk of these tumors developing.
Factors that protect the breast tumor
Early sterilization is the most important protective factor .
Spaying before 6 months of age reduces risk by 91%.
Sterilization before the age of 1 year reduces the risk by 86%.
When sterilized before 2 years of age, the risk reduction is only 11%. Spaying after 2 years does not reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
Diagnosis of mammary tumors in cats
A physical health examination of the cat is performed at the veterinary clinic to determine that she has no other health problems.
The nodules or lumps will be located and measured to determine their size and classification.
After this, chest x-rays, abdominal ultrasound, and blood tests are done to determine that there is no metastasis.
A fine needle biopsy may also be done, where lymph nodes are aspirated to check for cancer cells. Other diagnostic tests may include urinalysis and a clotting profile of the drawn blood sample.
After all this, if she tests positive, she will have to undergo surgery as soon as possible .
Breast tumor operation in cats
The first step in treatment is the surgical removal of as much tumor as possible . This means removing not only the affected mammary glands, but the entire chain of mammary glands on the affected side.
If both sides are affected, both will need to be removed, although there is usually not enough skin to remove both breast chains at the same time. Two separate surgeries will be done to allow proper closure and healing of each surgical site. Generally, a period of 3-5 weeks is allowed between surgeries to ensure tightening of the skin so that there is room to close the second incision.
If only one side is affected, and the tumor is considered to be in an early enough state for healing to be possible, it may be considered not to intervene on the other unaffected breast chain, that is, the other side.
On the contrary, if there is only one side involved but it is considered too advanced for the cure, it is probably not worth removing the second breast chain.
If the tumor is in an obviously advanced state at the time of the first surgery, less aggressive surgery to alleviate the infection may be more appropriate.
Another treatment: chemotherapy
To maximize the disease-free period and avoid metastasis, chemotherapy is used after surgery postoperatively after mastectomy . The most commonly used drugs are adriamycin, doxorubicin, and cyclophosphamide.
These chemotherapy drugs are given every 3 to 4 weeks for 4 to 6 cycles after complete removal of the primary tumor. Side effects associated with these protocols are anorexia (lack of appetite) and myelosuppression (low blood count).
Does the breast tumor cause pain in cats?
Pain is common in cats with breast cancer , some tumors cause more pain than others.
In addition to pain caused by the tumor itself, they will also experience pain from cancer-curing treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
Untreated pain decreases the cat’s quality of life and prolongs recovery from illness, treatment, or injury. Therefore, it is essential that we know how to recognize and manage our cat’s pain .
Survival of a cat with breast cancer
In general, the prognosis for queens with a breast tumor is reserved , with a few exceptions.
If the cat’s tumor is less than 2 cm, it can survive for up to three years. Cats with tumors between 2 and 3 cm can survive up to two years and cats with tumors larger than 3 cm can survive for up to six months.
It is important for the cat to be seen immediately by the vet when you detect lumps in the belly. Sadly, more than 60% of tumors that have been removed will re-develop within 12 months.
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