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Cancers and Tumors in Birds

Avian cancers and tumors


Cancer or tumors refers to an abnormal growth of cells in a tissue or organ. And while humans often suffer from cancers or tumors, a bird is just as likely. Fortunately, most cancers and tumors can be treated if they are diagnosed in time.


There are basically two types of tumors. Benign tumors, which do not spread, and malignant cancers, which spread and are usually termed as cancers in the medical world.


Symptoms and Types


There are basically two types of tumors. Benign tumors, which do not spread, and malignant tumors, which can spread and are usually termed as cancers. There are many different cancers and benign tumors that can afflict a bird. The following are some of the most common:


  • Internal cancers – these are difficult to diagnose. Tumors can be found in kidneys, liver, stomach, glands (ovary, testicle, thyroid and pituitary), muscles or bones. When diagnosed early, most internal tumors can be treated with surgery and chemotherapy to prolong or save the bird’s life. However, if the cancer is located in a difficult place, surgery will not be an option.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – or skin cancer, usually appears on the wing tips, toes, and around the beak and eyes. Skin cancer occurs when the bird is exposed to high levels of sunlight (ultraviolet rays).
  • Papilloma – this is a benign skin tumor, usually due to viral infection. It can occur on the skin (similar to squamous cell carcinoma) and in the stomach lining. Papilloma, however, can develop into cancer.
  • Fibrosarcoma – or cancer of the connective tissues, is a growth over a long bone, often seen in the leg or wing. They usually occur in budgerigars, cockatiels, macaws and other parrot species. When the cancer grows, the skin over it may ulcerate, (to the bird’s picking at it), or it may spread to other organs (metastasize). Treatment options include: amputation and surgery.