What Causes and How to Treat Breast Cancer in Pets
My cat Maude, whom I had just adopted, and I were playing when I felt the bump. My heart fell the first time I felt the bulk, which was during a much-appreciated belly massage, since I had gone through it twice previously.
After taking my beautiful Maude in for an x-ray and tiny needle biopsy, I eagerly awaited confirmation of what I had already suspected: that she had cancer. Naturally, I googled it, and I was startled to find out that 85 percent of mammary tumours in cats are cancerous. Given this, I had to shift my focus from excitedly anticipating the arrival of a new pet into my family to creating a palliative care strategy to ease her suffering for as long as possible.
The good news, however, came two days later. As expected, the tumour turned out to be harmless, and now three years later, tabby Maude is living the happy life as ever.
Why, therefore, did my two prior feline companions meet with such terrible fate? All of my cats were raised in a smoke-free environment, on high-quality diets, and under my watchful eye from the time they were tiny kittens. Let me show you what the scientific community already knew but I didn’t.
Approximately what percentage of people are diagnosed with this kind of cancer each year?
Breast cancer accounts for one-third of all feline cancers, according to research conducted by the College of Medicine at Cornell University. Other prevalent malignancies include those of the skin and the lymph system. In addition, female cats over the age of ten have a 95% chance of developing breast cancer. Cats of the Siamese, Persian, and Domestic Short-Haired varieties are more at risk for this disease. In the canine world, the most popular breeds are the Poodle, the Spaniel, and the Dachshund.
What Role Does Hormone Balance Play in the Development of Feline Breast Cancer?
Unlike in humans, where the disease may be passed on via female relatives, there is no conclusive evidence that your pet’s genes have a role in whether or not they will get cancer. Environmental variables, such as carcinogen exposure or particular immunisations, are also being shown to have little bearing on breast cancer in animals. However, research shows that female hormones have a very important role. Specific examples are oestrogen and progesterone. The chance of developing breast cancer is increased threefold if these hormones are administered orally or by injection to un-spayed cats as contraceptives or for behaviour modification, says Dr. Margaret McEntee, a professor of oncology at Cornell University.
Comparable results were seen in canines. Spaying your dog before her first heat reduces her chance of developing breast cancer by as much as 95 percent, but delaying spaying until after her second heat increases the risk to 26 percent, as reported by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. It is also established that canine early obesity is a factor, unlike in cats.
Dogs and cats may get breast cancer prevention advice
Spaying your pet before it goes through its first heat cycle is the best way to reduce the risk of breast cancer if hormones are shown to have a role in the development of the disease. About six months of age is the typical lifespan of a cat. It takes between four and five months for a small dog to go into heat, up to ten months for a medium-sized dog, and two years for a giant breed dog. Studies reveal that the incidence of breast cancer is reduced by 86% in cats who are spayed before the age of 12 months, and by a staggering 91% in cats that are spayed before the age of 6 months.
Breast cancer warning signs: all you need to know
Now comes the difficult part. Pets often develop tumours in the area immediately around their nipples. At first, you may not even see them, and your cat will experience no discomfort, since the nodules are around the size of pellets. This means there will be little early indicators. However, they have the potential to metastasize to her lymph nodes and other organs if left untreated. Early detection is crucial, just as it is with human cancer. While caught and removed when they’re less than 2 cm (3/4″) in diameter, cats with cancer have a three-year window of remission. If your pet has a tumour measuring more than 3 centimetres (1.25 inches), they have around a 6-month prognosis at best. Large re-sections, in which all nipples rather than just the damaged one are removed proactively, have a survival rate of up to three years for cats.
Naturally, we all want to see the warning signals before they progress, so here are some things to keep an eye out for:
- Whether clear or milky, a discharge from your pet’s nipples is a sign that something is wrong.
- Infection symptoms around your pet’s nipples
- Her breasts and nipples swelled to uncomfortable proportions.
- Rash in the bra area
- Tiny, hard bumps stuck to her nipples.
- Loss of appetite leading to slenderness
Breast cancer in pets: a diagnostic guide
The first thing to take if you think your pet has breast cancer is to have your veterinarian confirm your suspicions with a proper diagnosis. Upon arrival, a thorough examination may be performed to assess the growth’s size and the condition of your pet’s lymph nodes. Using their sense of touch, they are attempting to ascertain whether or not the mass has spread.
After that, the X-ray will reveal the tumor’s precise size and position. A veterinarian’s pathologist may examine the tissue samples taken from a small needle biopsy to determine whether or not cancerous cells are present. In addition, bloodwork may be used as a quick diagnostic tool to evaluate your pet’s overall health at any given time. The results of a haematology test may indicate whether or not your pet’s organs are healthy and whether or not they are surgical candidates.
The Available Therapies
Both of my cats had operations to remove the tumours I suspected were cancerous. Two different times, my cat lived another full year, and once she just lived three months. In spite of the fact that the biopsy concluded that Maude’s tumour was benign, I nevertheless decided to have it surgically removed for good precaution. If your pet has a malignancy and the disease hasn’t spread to other regions of her body, surgery is the best course of treatment. Cats may have their mammary glands (nipples) removed in addition to the lump itself to reduce the risk of cancer returning. It is more probable that your veterinarian will remove just the damaged gland from your dog rather than both mammary glands.
Radiation therapy, in combination with the right drugs, may be advised if it is determined that surgical intervention would not significantly improve your pet’s prognosis. Instead than subjecting your pet to an invasive treatment followed by a difficult recuperation, consider this.
Is There Anything I Should Do Now?
Although animals with breast cancer have a poor prognosis, and their lifetime is usually cut short, you should prioritise their happiness and well-being in the months and years ahead. Keep a close eye out for any signs of new lumps or tumours. Also, if you can afford it, have your pet regular x-rays of the chest and ultrasounds of the abdomen every three to six months.
Both you and your pet will survive this. Consult with your vet to figure out what measures you should take to ensure your pet’s continued health and happiness.