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Lymphosarcoma (Lymphoma)

By: Dr. Kimberly Cronin

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The most common adverse effects of cancer chemotherapy are gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea) or a decreased white blood cell count, which may increase the risk of secondary infection. Cats generally do not experience the hair loss that affects humans undergoing chemotherapy. In fact, cats usually tolerate chemotherapy much better than do humans. The risk of a serious adverse effect that would require hospitalization is small (perhaps 5 to 10 percent). If adverse effects do occur, your veterinarian may change the protocol to prevent these adverse effects during future treatments.

Fifty to sixty percent of treated cats achieve remission with an average survival time of 6 to 8 months. Ten to fifteen percent of cats treated for lymphosarcoma survive 2 years or more.

It often is possible to treat pets successfully a second time using different drugs or radiation therapy when relapse occurs. Different treatment approaches are necessary because the malignant lymphocytes have become resistant to the drugs used previously. It is more difficult to treat animals experiencing a second or third relapse and remission times generally are shorter.

In some circumstances, radiation therapy may be recommended in addition to or instead of chemotherapy. Radiation therapy requires referral to a specialty institution that offers radiation therapy because it requires specialized equipment and training.

Radiation therapy may be recommended if the pet has lymphosarcoma localized to a single site. It is essential, in this situation, to conduct a thorough search for other areas of involvement. Chemotherapy should be used in conjunction with radiation therapy if other areas of involvement are suspected or if a cat with lymphosarcoma is infected with FeLV or FIV. A full course of radiation involves a total of 10 to 16 treatments given 3 to 5 times a week. Adverse effects vary depending upon the region of the body treated and the number of treatments given. Animals must anesthetized for each treatment to prevent movement during radiation exposure.

Radiation can be used if lymphosarcoma is causing in a specific location of the body is discomfort or clinical signs. This type of treatment is called palliative radiation therapy, and involves use of a few large doses of radiation to the affected area. Adverse effects usually are minimal with this type of radiation therapy.

Surgery rarely is used in the treatment of lymphosarcoma, and is more commonly used to make a diagnosis of lymphosarcoma (to obtain biopsy specimens for examination by a veterinary pathologist).

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