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Does my cat have cancer?

Species: Cat
Breed: Domestic Short Hair
Age: 8-11 years


Dear Dr. Marie,



Greetings from Singapore! This is my 3rd time writing to you.




Here is my cat’s situation:


- Obese, 10 year old, indoor, male

- Coughing once weekly/ bi-weekly

- Eating normally, active, normal self

- X-rays showed numerous white spots/nodules in lungs

- Full blood tests done. No abnormalities

- Ultrasound done. No abnormalities in heart and outside area of lung

- Experience radiologist informed that ultrasound cannot read the inside of a cat’s lung



The X-rays, blood test and ultrasound were just done about a week ago (period of 16-24 Nov 2012).




Questions:

1) Is it necessary to proceed with further diagnostics in my cat’s case?

2) What is the best scan/diagnostic imaging method to determine cancer in a cat’s lungs (or metastatic cancer that has spread to the lungs)?



Thank you for reading my question, have a good day!



Best regards,
Jessica
Singapore


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi Jessica, good to hear from you again...but I am sorry to hear that Derek Boy may have cancer.

It is definitely true that ultrasound is not a good tool for looking at a cat's lungs. Unfortunately we don't have a lot of easy ways to assess for cancer in a cat's chest.

This is a tough question to answer for you because there are many variables. I would say that the most common reason for nodules in the lung is cancer. But, there are other possibilities. In my experience, most cats with cancer in the lungs do not do much coughing. Coughing usually means there is some kind of inflammation in the airways. Asthma is a very common reason for a cough in cats. Cats with asthma show changes on xrays, but they don't look like distinct nodules.

Your best source of information here is the radiologist. If the radiologist is quite certain that these xrays look like cancer, then this is probably the case. But, often they will say that they are not sure and that cancer is likely. If this is the case then you could go looking for other things.

You could ask your vet if heartworm is common in your area. Heartworm is much more common in dogs, but can affect cats and can be a cause of a cough and changes on xrays.

Similarly, a fungal disease can cause a cough and can look like cancer. Fungal diseases are only common in certain parts of the world though.

There are other tests that could possibly give you more answers. One good one to do would be a CT scan but these are very expensive and not available everywhere. An exploratory surgery of the chest could diagnose the problem, but this would be very invasive. I would not recommend an exploratory surgery because if there is cancer in multiple places, then surgery is not going to cure it.

If this were my case I would likely do a heartworm test (if not already done) and I probably would do a trial of some steroid medication. If this is asthma, then the steroids will help. I would take another xray in a month or so to see if things have improved.

Cases like this are difficult. It sounds like your vets are doing all the same things I would though.

Please let me know if you have more questions.

Dr. Marie.



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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:



Dear Dr. Marie,



Thank you for your prompt and detailed answer.



You certainly gave me sound and caring advice on what to do about Derek Boy's condition.



Thank you and have a great weekend ahead!



Best regards,
Jessica
Singapore


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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.