More About Lymphoma
(from Animal Medical, New York City)
By: The Animal Medical Center
Lymphoma, also known as malignant
lymphoma, lymphosarcoma, lymphatic cancer, and LSA, is considered systemic
cancer and is the most common malignant tumor other than skin cancer in dogs and
cats. The incidence of lymphoma is higher in cats than in dogs, primarily
because of the feline leukemia virus. Fortunately, the disease can be treated
successfully by chemotherapy.
The most common clinical sign of
lymphoma in dogs is non-painful swelling of all the lymph glands. The glands tend to
grow rapidly, and they often become large enough to painfully obstruct or press
against normal tissues and organs.
Lymphoma in cats more often affects
internal structures, which makes it difficult to diagnose. In cats, the clinical
signs of lymphoma are frequently more insidious than those in dogs and are related to the organ or organs involved. For
instance, a cat with chronic vomiting
and weight loss may have lymphoma of the stomach or intestines. Of course,
many less serious diseases are manifested by the same clinical signs.
Lymphoma affects all ages of dogs and
cats, so it cannot be excluded on the basis of age, even in a very young
The only way to make a definitive
diagnosis of lymphoma is by surgical biopsy, that is, removal and examination of a
specimen of diseased tissue. It is essential that a biopsy be performed
to differentiate between cancer and infection and other nonmalignant diseases.
Once a diagnosis of lymphoma has been
established, it is necessary that your pet's cancer be staged. Staging is
the process by which the veterinarian determines to what extent the
lymphoma has spread throughout the animal's body. The degree of spread affects
the manner in which a dog or cat is treated.
At The Animal Medical Center, the
tests by which lymphoma is staged include blood tests, chest and abdominal
x-rays, and examination of a bone marrow aspirate. These tests are usually performed at the same time as the surgical
Since lymphoma is systemic cancer,
treatment must also "spread" throughout the body. Chemotherapy is usually
recommended. Occasionally, radiation therapy is also recommended as part
of the treatment protocol. Dogs and cats both tend to tolerate the effects of
chemotherapy well, certainly much better than their human counterparts.
Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are uncommon.
Hair loss is also an unusual finding,
except in certain breeds of dogs and cats. Most pet owners who have treated
their dog or cat for lymphoma express satisfaction with their pet's quality
of life while he or she is undergoing chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, the long-term
prognosis for dogs and cats that undergo treatment for lymphoma is not good. However,
the average survival time for affected animals not treated is usually only a
few weeks. With proper treatment, approximately 85% of animals with
lymphoma do achieve complete remission, with resolution of all clinical signs
related to their lymphoma. Most of these pets have an excellent quality of life,
with remissions lasting from many months to years.
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