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Old March 13th, 2012, 10:05 PM
Mom2Kitty Mom2Kitty is offline
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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.
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Old March 14th, 2012, 07:38 AM
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sugarcatmom sugarcatmom is offline
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Oh my gosh, I'm SO sorry you and Kitty are going through this! My heart goes out to you . I haven't had to deal with a cancer diagnosis in a cat, but I do know of other pet owners that have gone the chemo route for lymphoma. Cats usually tolerate chemo quite well (much better than people do). The other thing with at least trying it is that if the side effects do become too much to bear, you can always stop. As long as Kitty is okay with the process, it might give you a little extra time together without too much stress.

You're on the right track with her diet. Definitely low-carb (cancer cells feed off of carbs), and good quality ingredients. Maybe add some raw food in there as well if she'll go for it. I like to rotate brands and flavours of canned to keep the cats interested and to prevent any possible nutritional excesses or deficiencies.

As for supplements, you might want to look into something called Transfer Factor. It's derived from colostrum and can boost immune system health. The vet might also be able to suggest some things, like perhaps a multivitamin (I like NuCat).

And of course, the most important factor in all of this: your unconditional love. It's easy to get obsessed with a sick kitty's health and to focus too much on every little sniffle and sneeze. Try to take a step back now and then and just love on her, cuddle her silly, and appreciate her for the life lessons she's teaching you during this difficult time. Think of it as an amazing journey the two of you can share together.

All the best.
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Old March 14th, 2012, 09:50 AM
althe althe is offline
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my experience with oral cancer

Hi Mom2Kitty,

I can only share my experience with you, knowing full well that each pet owner and each pet is different.

Our experience started with a loose front right fang in August, and we didn't think much of it as we've had other cats who've lost teeth around 10 years old (and we had never had an experience with cancer or any other very serious illness). But our cat Pisica was given a "fairly certain" diagnosis of oral squamous cell carcinoma in mid-November. We were told this was a very aggressive type of cancer (we never let her go back outside after this point). The vet told us the only treatment option was quite invasive facial surgery + chemo, and that this would only extend her life by a few months (2-5 months is what they told us), and that her quality of life would probably be poor because she'd be recuperating from these procedures. She weighed 10 pounds in August; she was down to 6 pounds by mid-November. We decided not to go the route of the medical treatment. The vet prepared us for the worst and within a couple weeks, by early December, she began having trouble breathing and eating; the cancer was destroying the right side of her face. By Dec 20th, the cancer had destroyed the whole right side nasal passage and she had paralysis on the right side of her face. We used small gauze pads + warm water to wipe nasal secretions and wash around her mouth. Because cats regulate their body temperature through breathing, she began spending more and more time sitting next to the baseboard heater, so I immediately purchased 2 small heating pads for her favorite sleeping spots and she loved always having a warm spot to go to. Throughout this entire time, she "acted normal"; she still expected her food on schedule, she still thought she could go outside (which she obviously couldn't), and she still tried to clean herself like she normally would (although this was difficult for her because of breathing problems), and she still wanted to cuddle with everybody and anybody she could. Around xmas time we had started giving her very mushed up poached salmon, but by new year's she was barely able to swallow any food. In the final 10 days, the vet gave us pain killer medication to be administered orally with a syringe (something akin to morphine), but our little trooper would have nothing of it. We said goodbye to her on January 9th.

Pisica was the most affectionate cat I've ever known; she wanted to be held and cuddled constantly, and we were lucky that circumstances allowed us to be with her nearly every minute in the last two months of her life. These were important considerations for us, and we don't regret the choice we made to not opt for the surgery and chemotherapy.

This is probably the most difficult part of our relationships with our pets. There isn't anyone who's in a better position or more qualified than you are to make the decision. Like another contributor told me, it's important not to second-guess yourself and simply be at peace with whatever decision you make.

Tee
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Old March 14th, 2012, 09:50 PM
Mom2Kitty Mom2Kitty is offline
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Thank you both so much for your replies! Althe, your Pisica sounds like a brave little kitty. I loved the photos you posted on your other post about her brother mourning her.

Kitty and I had some good news (well, what passes for good news nowadays) today at our meeting with the oncologist. I was so much more hopeful after this visit. She said that she absolutely would get the surgery done if Kitty were her cat. She said the risks of the surgery are outweighed by the benefits. She said she would also recommend taking out the spleen while they are in there because this cancer is commonly starts in the spleen and moves to the intestine and Kitty doesn't need her spleen, so may as well take it out and not risk it. They will also take small biopsies of other organs and lymph nodes to make sure it has not spread (although she does not expect to see that it has spread).

What sold me on the surgery is that the oncologist said that if the tumor was not removed, the chemicals and histamines that it releases would cause ulcers to form in Kitty's intestine and the ulcers would eat through her intestine and cause a bowel leak. She said the poor prognosis of 2-5 months associated with this cancer is due to the fact that a lot of cats get diagnosed when these ulcers start causing them problems and there is not much to be done then.

If the surgery is a success, she recommended the once per week chemo for 4-6 weeks and then Kitty could take the chemo pill once every 4-6 weeks. She was hopeful that Kitty would not have to be sedated for the chemo because it is a fairly quick injection.

She said if things go well, Kitty could live another 12-18 months and have a good quality of life.

Kitty is scheduled for surgery tomorrow. It will not be the first surgeon I spoke to doing the surgery. I opted to have someone in the office with the oncologist do it. This surgeon lists "tumor removal" as one of her areas of special interest (the other surgeon had orthopedics listed). I will post an update after the surgery.

I felt so hopeless yesterday after the meeting with the surgeon, that I started to cancel today's appointment. It is still not sunshine and rainbows, but I feel a sense of hope now.

I'm so thankful that we found this in time to give Kitty a chance. I am so, so thankful that I took Kitty to the vet for that vomiting issue and so thankful that he squeezed around on her good and found that lump. I go to a very low-tech, old school vet near retirement age. Sometimes I get concerned that he doesn't have all the fancy equipment that the newer vets have but he always give my cats good care and doesn't try to oversell us on stuff. I will never doubt him again.

Now I just have to see if I can get Kitty in the carrier for the third day in a row tomorrow morning!
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Old March 14th, 2012, 10:00 PM
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hazelrunpack hazelrunpack is offline
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Wishing you and Kitty all the best tomorrow, Mom2Kitty! Keep us posted!
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Old March 15th, 2012, 08:06 AM
althe althe is offline
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Hi Mom2K,
That's great news for you to have what seems like a relatively positive prognosis. Like you, my primary vet is older and approaches most situations holistically and I absolutely adore him; I have a secondary vet "clinic" who has all the modern equipment, but who unfortunately falls short in the personal care dept.

My thoughts are with you and Kitty. It sounds like you're on the right track. I'll look forward to hearing how she's doing over the coming months.

tee
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Old March 15th, 2012, 09:47 AM
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Rgeurts Rgeurts is offline
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Hi Mom2Kitty

I'm sorry you are going through this, but I'm very happy to see some postivie news for you and kitty

I just went through the same with one of my boys, a 12 yr old Malamute/GSDx. He was diagnosed in Feb. of last year with Malignant Histiocytic Sarcoma, an extremely rare disease, had surgery on March 16 (a year ago tomorrow) to remove the bottom lobe of his left lung, then through a round of Chemo. His diagnosis was very poor. 30-120 days with or without chemo if the cancer was disseminated, up to 18 months with chemo if it was not disseminated. He did very well until Sept. of 2011 when we found 3 lumps. He had them removed and not even a week later had a couple more. We opted not to put him through anymore surgery. We started another round of Chemo, which didn't help or slow the growth at all. His cancer had become immune to it and was now disseminated. As fast as they were growing and spreading, he was only in the couple of months life expectancy, but made it for 6. We just lost him on March 4. One reason I believe we were blessed to have had him in our lives as long as we did after diagnosis is the Chemo and holistic treatment. He saw our regular vet for the chemo and a holisitic vet for immune support and a Chinese cancer fighting herb. Boosting the immune system is so important along with a low carb diet and filtered water. Cancer feeds on carbs/sugar. If you have a good holistic vet in your area, I'd highly recoemmend it for quality of life. The year we had may not seem like much to most people, but considering the form of cancer he had, it was a huge blessing to us. Good luck to you and your kitty
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