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This is the story of a cat who's life was saved by Art! Hard to believe, but this is a true story. Around the holidays, I was visiting a friend and local artist looking for a Christmas present for my wife. While at their house I started playing with Choir Boy, their 17 year old kitty. I noticed he was on the thin side and as I felt his belly, I noticed what I believed was a mass in the middle of the abdomen.
I told my friends about this and they set up an appointment to bring him in early in the next week for a thorough workup. We performed blood tests, urinalysis, radiographs of the chest and belly and ultimately abdominal ultrasound to determine what was going on.
For his age, Choir Boy's blood tests were pretty normal. He has a condition known as hyperthyroidism, but it had been well controlled with drug therapy. The radiographs revealed a mid abdominal mass approximately 4 cm (2 inches) in diameter. There was no evidence of cancer having spread to the lungs on the chest x-rays.
Close up of mass
(double click to see larger image)
We performed abdominal ultrasound and found the mass to be solid and associated with the intestines. It measured 3.8 x 2.8 cm.
Based on our findings I recommended an abdominal exploratory surgery in hopes of being able to resect the tumor or at least get a biopsy of it to find out if it is a treatable tumor. There was some concern over putting a cat of his age through surgery, but Choir Boy's owners wanted to give him every possible chance for survival.
We anesthetized Choir Boy and explored his belly. We found the mass as predicted by our diagnostic imaging growing out of the intestines. We were able to cut the tumor out and reconnect the intestines together to give him a fully functional gastrointestinal tract. There was no evidence of tumor spread to other organs, so we closed our incision and woke him back up. Recovery was uneventful and in 48 hours he was discharged in good spirits eating a bland diet.
The tumor was sent to the laboratory and the diagnosis came back as Lymphosarcoma, which is a cancer derived from the white blood cell known as the lymphocyte.
Of the tumors that cats can get, lymphosarcoma has one of the best prognoses with respect to drug therapy. Over 80% of the cats treated with drugs (chemotherapy) will respond and go into remission for an average of 10 months. Based on these good statistics, we started an intensive weekly protocol of different drugs to help fight the cancer. Choir Boy responded beautifully to the drugs with minimal side effects. His quality of life between treatments was back to normal and, in fact, he is putting on weight again.
As I write this, we are over 3 months into Choir Boy's therapy and he is doing well. While we don't expect to cure this cancer, we are successfully extending his life with excellent quality. Both he and his owners are very happy with the outcome.