Cat diagnosed with rare cancer--not sure what to do
I took my approx. 12 year old tortie, Kitty, to the vet last Wednesday because she had vomited several times in the past 2 weeks. She has always been a vomiter but mostly due to eating way too fast. This was different. I expected the vet to tell me that she was diabetic or hyperthyroid because she is always ravenous. She was at the vet in Sept. due to weight loss and blood tests show that she had some pancreatic issues. Vet said to switch her to canned food. I actually thought that she had gained a little of her weight back since then. I was wrong. She had lost nearly a pound. (She is down 4 lbs since 2010) The vet squeezed her abdomen and thought he felt something. It was all downhill from there--x-ray then ultrasound, then biopsy. By Friday afternoon, I knew that Kitty had a mast cell tumor in her small intestine that had spread to an adjacent lymph node.
The vet said that there is no consensus on how to treat this type of cancer when it is in the intestines because there just aren't that many cases seen (mast cell tumors are more commonly on the skin or in the spleen). The options presented to me over the phone were surgery and chemo (have to also do chemo because it already started to spread), just chemo, or steroids only (this would just be a comfort measure). My initial thought was to go at this with both barrels blazing. The vet asked me to think about it over the weekend.
Kitty had a surgical consult today and it wasn't good. Apparently, the prognosis is 2-5 months with or without surgery. With surgery and chemo, Kitty may get as much as 12 months. He said that she may be able to get that with chemo alone, they just don't know. He said if it were his cat, he would have a really hard time making this decision (and he's a surgeon). What makes the decision really difficult is that Kitty is asymptomatic right now. She hasn't even vomited any since last week when I changed her food to Nature's Variety Instinct canned and cut her back to 1/2 can at each meal time (my husband had bumped her up to 2/3 a can because she was always wanting more, I think this is what made her vomit). She is acting like her normal self. The surgeon is concerned that surgery could go poorly and I will have missed out on the remaining good days I have with Kitty. I tend to agree. Also, I would really want a better prognosis than that before subjecting Kitty to such a serious procedure.
Tomorrow we have a consult with the oncologist. I will consider chemo if she thinks it will be of benefit to Kitty. I have already been told that there are no published reports of treating this type of cancer with chemo alone so they don't know what it may accomplish, if anything. If Kitty were to do chemo, I would almost certainly go the pill route other than taking her in to the vet for weekly chemo. I think the weekly version is more effective but the vet said that Kitty would have to be sedated for it because she is so squirmy. The vet didn't think weekly sedation was a good idea. I am wondering if anyone can share with me their experience with kitty chemo and if you thought the results were worth it for your pet? I want to have Kitty for as long as possible but I don't want to create a lot of stress on her trying to keep her with me a few months longer.
I would also greatly appreciate any other suggestions--dietary, supplements, etc that may help support Kitty's health right now.