Many of us do monthly or yearly cancer bump and lump checks on ourselves as part of our overall wellness efforts to catch any potential problems early – sometimes with lifesaving results. The same kind of lump and bump check can be a life-saving routine for our cats, too.
Increased screenings have resulted in a decrease in many cancers in humans, in part because early detection and treatment improves long-term outcomes for many patients. The same is true for our cats.
A monthly check can be as simple as just petting your cat with some light pressure to make it easier for you to detect any bumps or lumps. Make sure to cover every inch of your cat’s body, including legs, paws and under the belly. Pay special attention to the arm pits and the area above and below the base of the tail, common spots for bumps to appear. While this method cannot detect all cancers (there are nearly 100 different pet cancers), it can help you stay on top of those that grow just under and above the skin.
If you feel something out of the ordinary on your cat, schedule a visit with your veterinarian who will examine the bump and, if needed, do a diagnostic test. Most lumps and bumps are benign and easily removed. Cancers you may find on or under your cat’s skin include mast cell tumors, squamous cell carcinomas and mammary tumors; all cancer types where early detection can help your cat be a cancer survivor. Another cancer type to watch out for, especially in cats, is injection-site sarcomas (ISS).
Injection-site sarcomas are malignant cancers triggered by injections of material placed under the skin, causing chronic inflammation. Vaccinations most commonly are linked to these tumors, because they are the most frequently given injections. However, any injection can result in formation of an ISS including long-acting steroids, antibiotics, insulin, and even subcutaneous fluids such as saline.
These tumors can be devastating. Once they take hold, they infiltrate deep into the surrounding tissues and are difficult to remove. Newer injection strategies aim to lessen the problem by vaccinating cats in their tail or on a leg. If a tumor develops in these areas, they are surgically more accessible. However, not all medications can be given into these areas. The good news is that ISSs are rare; approximately 1 in 10,000 cats in North America (roughly 2,300-2,500 cats each year) are affected.
For more than a decade, Morris Animal Foundation has supported ISS research to learn what factors influence ISS development and to explore new treatment and prevention strategies. Current studies include a team from the University of Illinois evaluating the ability of a new imaging method, optical coherence tomography, which checks for additional cancer cells during tumor removal surgery. The hope is by finding these “hidden” cancer cells and removing them, recurrence rates will diminish or slow down.
In addition to checking your cat for lumps and bumps regularly, what else can you do to help fight cancer? You can make a gift to support pet cancer research during Morris Animal Foundation’s Unite to Fight Pet Cancer campaign! Through June 30, your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $50,000 thanks to a generous gift from the Blue Buffalo Foundation. Your “double the impact” donation will help support cancer researchers around the world who are working diligently toward solutions to keep our pets happy, healthy and cancer free. Thank you!