Feline Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphocytes (white blood cells) most commonly occurring in the gastrointestinal tract or mediastinum (chest) of cats, although it may affect any organ, including lymph nodes, spleen, liver, kidneys, nose, and skin. Fortunately, most patients treated with combination chemotherapy go into clinical remission (no visible evidence of cancer) for extended periods of time.

During your appointment with The Ohio State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital Oncology/ Hematology Service, your cat's previous history and diagnostic findings will be reviewed. In most cases, fine-needle aspiration cytology will be done to assist in confirming the diagnosis, particularly if a previously done biopsy is not available. A tissue biopsy (usually done under sedation with a needle core biopsy instrument) often also is obtained to confirm the cytologic diagnosis and to provide additional prognostic information. Additional diagnostic procedures may be required, including abdominal ultrasound, thoracic radiographs, bone marrow aspirate, urinalysis, and blood samples for a complete blood count (CBC) and serum chemistry profile. All of this information assists in making a diagnosis of lymphoma and assessing the extent of disease and suitability for treatment.

Lymphoma in most instances is a chemotherapy-responsive disease. For most patients chemotherapy, using a combination of drugs, is recommended. During the "induction phase" of chemotherapy, patients receive intravenous injections of drugs on a weekly basis, as well as some oral drugs at home. After completion of induction therapy, most patients will continue to receive maintenance therapy consisting of oral drugs alone, or in combination with intravenous drugs.

Chemotherapy is well-tolerated by most cats. Possible side-effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, inappetence, and myelosuppression (low blood cell counts), but is self-limiting in most instances. Hospitalization due to chemotherapy-related complications is rare. Quality of life for cats with lymphoma on chemotherapy, as judged by the owners, usually is excellent.