Tumors of the digestive system in cats are relatively uncommon, and most of these growths appear in the small intestine rather than the stomach itself. Middle-aged and older cats are most likely to develop stomach tumors. If a mass is detected in your cat's stomach, don't panic. It's possible that the tumor is benign. If the tumor is malignant, much depends on the type of cancer, whether or not it has metastasized -- or spread -- and whether it is aggressive or slow-growing.
Leiomyosarcoma in cats forms in the stomach and intestinal muscles. Unfortunately, this cancer usually spreads to other parts of the body. Symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Blood in feces
- Frequent stomach rumbling.
Besides blood and urine tests, your vet will perform X-rays and ultrasounds on your pet to view the digestive tract. She may anesthetize your cat and use an endoscope to see the area and remove a sample for biopsy.
While the tumor must be surgically removed, your cat's prognosis depends on whether the cancer has spread. If it has, he's likely to survive just a few months. Your vet may recommend dietary changes for easy digestibility, and prescribe painkillers for your cat.
Feline lymphoma, or cancer of the lymphatic system, most often affects the animal's gastrointestinal tract. Lymph circulates throughout the cat's body via lymphatic vessels that connect with lymph nodes. Lymph has critical functions throughout the body. These include:
- Collecting metabolic waste
- Removing infectious agents
- Sending nutrients and oxygen to cells
- Absorbing intestinal fat.
Symptoms of feline lymphoma include:
- Appetite loss
- Weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes, especially in the abdomen if the stomach is involved.
While any cat may develop lymphoma, older male cats are at higher risk. Especially vulnerable are cats testing positive for the feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus.
Diagnostic work is similar to that of other intestinal cancers, along with lymph node testing. Because of the nature of this cancer, lymphoma is usually treated with chemotherapy rather than surgery. However, if there is a mass in the stomach, your vet will remove it. Expect your cat to remain on chemotherapy for the rest of his life, which may consist of several months or more than a year.
Feline adenocarcinoma may appear in any part of the digestive system, including the stomach. In addition to signs common to other gastrointestinal cancers, symptoms specific to adenocarcinoma include:
- Vomiting blood
- Black, tarry feces
- Red blood in the stools
- Difficulty defecating.
In addition to standard testing, your vet will examine the cat's fecal samples for evidence of intestinal bleeding. While surgery is the treatment of choice, removing cancerous tissue from the stomach is especially difficult. Unfortunately, most cats with adenocarcinoma of the stomach live only a few months post-surgery.