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Options for cats with mammary tumors

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Question

Our six-year old cat, an intact female named Sheba, has developed a lump in her breast. It’s on the right side near her arm, and our vet thinks it’s most likely a mammary gland tumor requiring surgery. Please suggest holistic options.

Answer

 Mammary tumors are very common in female dogs—in fact three times more common than in women. They are not so common in cats. However, while only 45 percent of mammary tumors tend to be malignant in dogs, 90 percent are malignant in cats. Most feline mammary tumors are adenocarcinomas and tend to affect the first two anterior or thoracic mammary glands close to the chest. Both dogs and cats have five pairs of mammary glands, a total of 10.

Causes

Older cats that have not been spayed (intact females) are most likely to develop mammary tumors. Male cats and spayed females can also develop these tumors, though cats spayed before six months of age are least likely to develop them. Research has found hormones play a key role in the development of mammary neoplasia, but the exact mechanism is still not clearly understood. In cats, every mammary tumor is considered potentially malignant irrespective of how many glands are involved or how large the tumor is.

Signs

As most cats are furry, mammary tumors are usually found only by a veterinarian during a cat’s annual checkup, which is why annual vet visits can be lifesaving. Good owners who regularly pet their cats also tend to find lumps quickly. However, in aggressive cats that cannot be touched, tumors may not be found until the advanced stages as these cats are difficult to examine. Fever, malaise and bloody discharge from the mammary tumor occur in ulcerated tumors where the size has caused rubbing or friction or the cat has inflicted self-trauma due to pain.

Diagnosis

A physical exam is usually when a mass is detected in a mammary gland. Most vets will then examine the lymph nodes for spreading and request three-view chest radiographs to make sure it has not metastasized to the lungs. Sometimes your vet may perform a fine-needle aspiration of the mass to ascertain whether it is indeed an adenocarcinoma. A vet can make a concrete diagnosis only by surgically removing the mass and sending it for histopathology.

Treatment

1. Surgery. The most effective and best treatment for any mammary tumor is surgical removal of the mass. Depending on the size, spread, location and other factors, your veterinary surgeon/oncologist will decide which of these options is the best for your cat:

  • Lumpectomy—removing only the tumor
  • Simple mastectomy—removing only the gland that has the tumor
  • Modified radical mastectomy—removing the affected gland and those that share lymphatic drainage plus associated lymph nodes
  • Radical mastectomy—removing all the mammary glands on the affected side along with  the associated lymph nodes

In cats, radical mastectomy seems to be the most effective but not necessarily curative. Another tumor may develop on the other chain of mammary glands, so some vets will advise removing the chain on the other side too, but it is very rarely done. If the tumor has already metastasized to the lungs, surgery is a waste of time as it has not been shown to improve survival time. Ulcerated tumors can be removed to alleviate suffering as they bleed and become infected, smelly and painful.

2. Chemotherapy. Doxirubicin and cyclophosphamide combination protocols have been used in cats but have shown limited efficacy.

3. Radiation therapy. This option has not been found effective.

4. Anti-estrogenic compounds. These have not proven to be effective.

5. Cortisone therapy. Dr Alfred J. Plechner, in his book Pets at Risk, advises carrying out an endocrine-immune test on cats after surgery to check for low cortisol, high estrogen and abnormal immune cells. Treating these cats (even those that have had metastasis) with IM injections of short- and long-acting cortisone combinations every month often extended their life span by 10 years.

Holistic options

Holistic treatments are best used after surgery to prolong life and prevent metastasis. If surgery cannot be done for various reasons, then you can try these options on their own too.

Diet Cats are finicky or fussy eaters and are not keen to change their diet at the best of times. However, try to switch them to a raw diet or a home-cooked diet with human-grade ingredients. There are some good cat cancer diet recipes in Dr Guy Richter’s book The Ultimate Pet Health Guide. One recipe uses salmon, millet and carrots with omega-3 fish oil and another contains beef steak and sweet potato. The following is a simple recipe from our book You Can Heal Your Pet (see box).

Supplements The anti-carcinogenic properties of mushrooms are well documented. I always prescribe CAS Options from Vet Classics (vetclassics.com), which has a combination of reishi, maitake, shiitake and Turkey Tail, to all my cancer patients. It also contains antioxidants to balance the immune system. Immunity Organic Mushroom Mix from Four Leaf Rover (fourleafrover.com) is also a good alternative to the CAS Options blend.

Nutraceuticals Oncosupport by Rx Vitamins (rxvitamins.com) is a very good botanical nutraceutical blend for your pet struggling with cancer. It provides nutrient diversity to support the cancer patient. Since the company sells it only to veterinarians and healthcare professionals, you may need to ask your vet about it.

TCVM Dr Steve Marsden states that the Chinese herbal formula Xian Fang Huo Ming Yin (Angelica and Mastic Combination), also known as Sublime Joint Formula (Kan Herb Company, kanherb.com), has a reputation for healing mammary inflammation and can also halt the growth of mammary tumors in both cats and dogs. Mastic contains boswellic acids that limit inflammatory reactions that foster tumor growth. It also contains myrrh, which has terpenoids known for their anti-tumor properties. I often administer this formula after performing a TCVM pattern diagnosis.

Neoplasene This is a powerful apoptogen and contains bloodroot—a cancer remedy used by Native Americans for centuries. It can be applied topically and given orally. It must be used with care under the guidance of a veterinarian as it does have side effects, such as loss of appetite and vomiting. When cats stop eating, they end up with hepatic lipidosis, which can be irreversible and lead to starvation and death.

Ozone therapy Used for over 100 years all over the world, ozone therapy is based on the principle that by increasing oxygen in the body, we enhance microcirculation. A simplistic explanation of how it can help with cancer is that cancer cells hate oxygen and cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Integrating ozone or biophotonic therapy into your cat’s cancer treatment protocol is highly recommended. Please see o3vets.com for more information.

Intravenous vitamin C therapy When injected in high doses into the bloodstream, vitamin C concentrations in the plasma reach levels high enough to kill cancer cells. Oral vitamin C taken in large doses causes diarrhea, which does not happen when it is given intravenously.

Energy healing / pet Reiki Most pets that have cancer have imbalances in their energy centers or chakras. A good Reiki practitioner or energy healer can help balance your pet.

Prognosis

In cats, the survival time is only about six months if the tumor is greater than 3 cm in diameter. The median survival time increases to four years or more if the tumor is less than 2 cm.

However, using a combination of holistic therapies and surgery, it is possible to extend life significantly in most feline cancer patients with mammary tumors.

K9/Feline Nature’s Own Hotpot

Ingredients

  • 230 g (8 oz) free-range turkey
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 handful French green beans (cut small)
  • 1 handful basmati rice
  • 1 medium potato, diced
  • 1 handful frozen peas
  • 2 cabbage leaves, shredded

Method

  1. Place all ingredients in a large pan and add enough water to cover.
  2. Bring to a boil, then gently simmer for 30 minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed (add water if it starts to dry out).
  3. Allow mixture to cool. Store in fridge for up to three days or freeze for up to one month.

 

Rohini Sathish, DVM, MSC, MRCVS, MHAO, MCIVT

Dr Sathish is an award-winning holistic vet with 22 years of experience. After training in acupuncture, acupressure, energy healing, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), animal communication and herbal medicine, she now actively integrates conventional veterinary treatments with complementary therapies and is co-author of You Can Heal Your Pet (Hay House UK, 2015). You can contact Dr Sathish at her website: www.rohinisholisticvetcare.com

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