Smoke Signals

If you smoke, your cat may be at risk for developing cancer. Oral and intestinal cancers top this list.

By Alice Villalobos, DVM | Posted: Tue May 31 00:00:00 PDT 2005

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My preferred method for confirming a suspected feline intestinal lymphoma is via fine needle aspiration (FNA) cytology (the study of cells). A needle is used to aspirate palpable tumors in the abdomen. There are several other non-surgical methods of diagnosis, including an ultrasound-guided FNA, endoscopy (looking inside the gastrointestinal tract with fiber optics) and laparoscopy (looking inside the abdomen with fiber optics). Exploratory surgery may be recommended as the only sure method to obtain multiple organ tissues and intestinal samples for diagnosis.

As a systemic disease, lymphoma is generally not curable with surgery. Cats that have had surgery for cancer are at greater risk for recurrence if they do not receive chemotherapy promptly after recovering from surgery. Many cats do well on chemotherapy, especially if they are diagnosed early before losing body condition.

Cats diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have an even further risk of developing intestinal lymphoma. If an IBD cat lives with a smoker, the cat is living in a high-risk situation.

Early detection and immediate treatment give cats the best chances for surviving oral cancer, as well. Early warning signs for oral tumors are vague, but may look similar to dental problems (bed breath, refusal to eat hard food, chewing on one side of the mouth, etc.). Treatment includes complete SCC removal, followed by radiation and chemotherapy.

Prevention is Key
Cats living with smokers may benefit from immunonutrition or chemoprevention. Supplements can enhance the immune system and reverse or suppress the cancer. One effective supplement is preparations from the agaricus mushroom, which is documented to stimulate the activity of macrophages (immune cells) to engulf bacteria, viruses and cancer cells. Other immunonutritive supplements include vitamin C and several antioxidants.

It makes sense for cat owners to be proactive and remove carcinogens from their home environment. If you smoke indoors, consider designating smoke-free rooms for your cat, or even making the change to an entirely smoke-free home. Regularly bathing and grooming your cat may also help, in addition to using an air purifier in your home. Also consider quitting the habit for good. Contact the American Cancer Society for information on helpful smoke cessation programs.

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Reader Comments

Janet    Bethlehem, PA

12/4/2010 9:14:40 AM

good article, thanks

janet    bethlehem, PA

10/1/2010 4:55:23 AM

good article, thanks

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