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Everything you need to know about sarcoma cancer in cats

Grey cat on  the floor advice
© Pixabay

Sarcoma cancer in cats can either appear as a malignant or a benign tumour in the soft connective tissue. Although quite invasive it generally doesn’t metastasise to other body parts

By Dawn Parrish

What is sarcoma cancer in cats?

These cancer tumours present as a firm mass quite prominent under the cat’s fur. Generally developing in fatty tissue, blood vessels, lymph vessels and skeletal muscles, under the skin. However, they can also form in other areas of the body too. The degree that these tumours develop and become malignant varies. The majority of these sarcoma cancers in cats are not very aggressive and therefore not as invasive as other highly malignant tumours.

There are several different sarcomas that all fall under the soft tissue tumour type:

  • Fibrosarcoma
  • Histiocytomas
  •  Myxosarcomas
  • Lymphangiosarcomas
  •  Liposarcomas
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumour

Causes of sarcoma cancer in cats

A soft tissue sarcoma cancer tumour is often described as the behaviour of tumour with tentacles. In the case of a fibrosarcoma, a cat that has been exposed to the feline sarcoma virus has a higher risk of developing this cancer. Likewise, any feline that has a vaccination can develop a tumour formation on the site where the needle has entered her skin. This tends to be the most common reason for the disease.  An older cat is more likely to develop sarcoma cancer.

cat sarcoma Cat sarcoma tumours can appear at vaccination sites ©Pixabay
 

Symptoms of sarcoma

First of all, one of the most common symptoms of this cancer is a swelling underneath the cat’s skin. This can be quite firm to the touch, and will also enlarge progressively. After any vaccination, a cat’s skin will naturally develop a small bump, but this should subside within 2 weeks. However, if the lump remains for longer than 12 weeks after the vaccination, or increases in size to larger than 2 centimetres, get it checked out. Above all, don’t panic, this could just be a cyst which might not be too serious.

Fitzpatrick Referrals Veterinary Group UK state that on their website “Sarcomas are typically further classified into grades 1, 2 or 3. This is determined by the appearance of cancer under the microscope.  All Sarcomas are malignant (have the potential to spread) but the risk increases with the grading.”

Treatment for cat sarcoma cancer

In recent years, it appears that many sarcoma cancers in cats are related to vaccine sites. Veterinary medical associations now provide guidelines as to the best locations to give a cat an injection. As a result, the Rabies vaccine will be given in the right rear leg. Similarly, the feline Leukaemia vaccination will routinely be given in the rear left leg.

There is, however, still a chance that an injection site can develop into a sarcoma tumour. If this is the case, amputation of the limb may be necessary. The optimum treatment process is a combination of chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. Surgery alone may be the answer if the sarcoma is only a small tumour. The cat will obviously need to be anaesthetised for surgery, which in itself can be a hazard. The surgeon will probably need to remove an amount of surrounding tissue during the operation. Chemotherapy is often tolerated quite well by cats and this is a routine treatment for cancer sarcoma.

cat surgery Surgery may be the answer for small size cat sarcoma tumours ©Pixabay
 

If your kitty undergoes any surgery procedure, special care at home will be needed while the incision site heals. Attempt to prevent your cat from scratching or licking at her stitches. A follow-up check will be required to evaluate the progress of healing.

Prognosis following sarcoma cancer in cats

Following surgery, soft tissue tumours are known to re-grow. With each recurring growth, the recovery prognosis worsens. However, on the other hand, if surgery has been successful with a complete removal of a cancerous tumour, the cat may live for a further 5 years or more. Similarly, if the cat has received radiotherapy treatment, her lifespan may be increased.

Although the prominence of sarcoma cancer in cats appears at vaccination sites on the cat’s body, it’s important to maintain a vaccination programme. It appears that it is only a very small percentage of cats that develop this condition at sites of injections. In everyday life, there is a higher chance of your cat contracting an illness potentially more fatal than a sarcoma.