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Hemangiosarcoma of the Bone in Cats

By: Dr. Jeffrey Philibert

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Hemangiosarcoma is a type of cancer that most commonly affects the spleen, liver and heart and typically causes bleeding from the ruptured tumor. Although it can arise in bone initially, this is rare. Most often when it occurs in bone, the tumor has spread there from another site in the body. Thus, if your cat is diagnosed with bone hemangiosarcoma it is vitally important that other more common sites of this tumor are excluded as the primary site.

As with most forms of cancer, very little is known about what causes hemangiosarcoma to develop. It is a highly lethal form of cancer and thus the diagnosis and treatment should be prompt and aggressive.

Related Symptoms or Diseases

  • Lameness. This is a general term used to describe pain or discomfort experienced when your pet moves normally or exercises minimally. Although your cat may develop lameness due to arthritis, ligament or tendon tears, or cartilage injury, lameness is also a cardinal sign of bone tumors. Therefore, any unexplained or chronic lameness in your pet warrants further investigation.

  • Pathologic fractures. If your cat experiences a fracture with minimal trauma, a pathologic fracture should be considered. Although fractures are most often a result of trauma, they can also occur in bones that have been weakened by cancer. Evaluating an X-ray may lead to the suspicion that the bone is abnormal; however, definite diagnosis of a tumor requires a biopsy. Pathologic fractures will not heal if fixed using standard techniques

  • Osteomyelitis. This is an infection in the bone and an uncommon condition that occurs as a result of infectious organisms such as bacteria or fungi getting into a bone. These organisms most commonly gain entrance to the bone through an open wound, open fracture or rarely through the blood (a blood borne infection). The appearance of osteomyelitis may be similar to some bone cancers because it often appears as a proliferative or fuzzy mass-like lesion on an X-ray. Differentiating these types of infection from bone cancer typically requires that a biopsy and a culture be performed.        

  • Bone infarction. This is a very rare condition in which a blood clot blocks the blood supply to a bone, resulting in death of the bone. On an X-ray this appears as a lytic lesion, which means there is loss of bone, and is similar to the appearance of bone cancer.

  • Metastatic tumors to bone. Occasionally a bone cancer can be due to the metastasis or spread of cancer from a primary cancer elsewhere, most commonly mammary gland cancer. These types of cancers tend to have a distinctively different appearance on X-rays than primary bone tumors. Although their radiographic appearance may alert your veterinarian to their presence, a biopsy is still required for a definitive diagnosis.

    It is important to distinguish tumors that have spread from other tissues to bone from those that arise in bone initially because the treatment differs. For metastatic tumors an attempt is made to determine the site of the primary cancer. If your pet is diagnosed with cancer, your veterinarian may wish to consult with an oncologist or cancer specialist to understand the specific behavior and treatment of the cancer.

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