By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
Disclamer: I am not Stan’s veterinarian and I have not reviewed his medical information nor talked to his doctors. Since lymphoma is the most common tumor of cats, all veterinary oncologists have a good deal of experience in managing this disease.
There are many talented cats who blog. Because I am partial to black and white “tuxedo” cats, Tuxedo Stan from Halifax, Nova Scotia is one of my favorites. Stan believes in taking a political stand. He based his 2012 mayoral campaign platform on the plight of stray cats in Halifax. His politics garnered him endorsements from Ellen DeGeneres and Anderson Cooper.
Early last week Stan announced he was hospitalized at the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) on Prince Edward Island for the treatment of the most common type of feline kidney cancer, lymphoma. His most recent tweets indicate he has been released and has returned home.
Lymphoma is the most common type of cancer seen in cats, approximately one third of all tumors in cats are lymphoma. Stan’s case is a bit unusual since these days most cats with lymphoma suffer from the intestinal form of the disease and, based on his tweets, Stan’s tumor affects his kidneys. During an examination, veterinarians can palpate (feel) large and irregular kidneys. Some, but not all cats with lymphoma of the kidneys have increased values on their kidney blood tests because the tumor cells disrupt normal kidney function. Successful treatment can bring the blood test levels back to normal.
In one of his tweets, Stan asked for a sweater because his tummy was cold. He does live in Canada after all. Stan’s abdominal organs were most likely evaluated using abdominal ultrasound. An abdominal x-ray shows the outlines of organs, but an ultrasound lets veterinarians see both the outline and the internal structure of organs as well. Stan’s tummy was cold because we need to shave the fur in order for the ultrasound probe to contact the skin and produce a clear image of the abdominal organs.
When oncologists at The Animal Medical Center find a kidney tumor using ultrasound we typically perform a fine needle aspirate to determine the type of kidney tumor, and I suspect Stan had the same or a similar procedure. The radiologist uses the ultrasound images to guide a very thin needle into the tumor. A syringe attached to the needle is used to aspirate (suction) some of the cells out of the tumor. Once the cells are in the needle, the syringe is detached and air is put into the syringe. The syringe and needle are reattached and the air is used to push the cells onto a microscope slide. The slide is stained and evaluated by a specially trained veterinarian called a pathologist. Sometimes these tests are sent to a central laboratory, but because the diagnosis was so rapid, I suspect Stan’s tumor cells were evaluated by a staff pathologist who works at AVC.
Treatment = Chemotherapy
The mainstay of treatment for lymphoma is chemotherapy. At The Animal Medical Center, we typically use a multidrug treatment protocol and rotate drugs on a weekly basis. This protocol attacks tumors using chemotherapy drugs with different mechanisms of action and different toxicity profiles. Administration of chemotherapy drugs to cats requires them to cooperate while the treatment is given intravenously as an outpatient. I hope Stan will give us an update about his ongoing treatments.
Here is more information on signs of cancer in cats.
If you prefer feline social media in 140 characters or less, you might want to use this list to find tweeting cats.