Ovarian Cysts in Cats
There are three kinds cat ovarian tumors: epithelial tumors (skin/tissue), germ cell tumors (sperm and ova), and stromal tumors (connective tissue). The most common type of ovarian tumor in in cats is sex-cord (granulosa-theca cell) ovarian tumors. Granulosa cells are follicular cells (hollow cells) surrounded by theca cells (which form a surrounding sheath). Ovarian tumors are prone to metastasizing (spreading), and some are capable of producing hormones.
The tumors described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.
Symptoms and Types
- Fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity
- Fluid build-up in the chest cavity
- Tumors producing steroid hormones
- Lack of sexual heat and menstruation
- Persistent estrus (menstruation and heat)
- Pyometra (pus-filled abdomen)
- Gynecomastia (males which exhibit feminine traits, like having enlarged nipples with leaking milk)
- Bilateral, symmetrical baldness
- Masculinization (excess testosterone)
This condition is often associated with non-spayed and non-neutered cats.
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your cat, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis. You will need to give your doctor a thorough history of your cat's health, with a description of the onset of symptoms. X-rays may reveal the spread of cancerous cells (metastases) by way of the blood vessels or lymphatic system.
Your veterinarian will also take X-rays and ultrasound images of the abdomen and chest to look for further evidence of tumors. Abdominal X-rays might show a unilateral or bilateral mid-abdominal mass near the kidney, or fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity. An ultrasound of the abdomen can reveal similar information, but with even greater sensitivity and detail. If there is excess fluid in the pleural (chest) lining, or fluid in the abdomen, your veterinarian will take a fluid sample for microscopic (cytologic) examination.
If the size of the tumor is minor, and the growth minimal, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to remove a solitary tumor, or to take a tissue sample (biopsy) of the tumor. Even if a tumor appears to be obviously malignant, and is metastasizing (growing), a biopsy can still be invaluable for the final, definitive diagnosis.
Your veterinarian may also want to perform a procedure called a histopathologic examination, for tracking changes in the tissue, to better understand the character of the growth.
A single tumor can be removed surgically, and will generally not require a long stay in the veterinary hospital. Although benign tumors are rare, there are cases where this is so, and cats that have this type of tumor will easily recover. This is also generally true in cases where a malignant tumor has been located and treated before it has the opportunity to spread.
A malignant tumor that has spread can be treated with chemotherapy, and its growth may be halted, put into remission, and sometimes cured all together. The prognosis for this condition is guarded. Cancerous tumors are notoriously independent, and treatment is not always effective.
Living and Management
Schedule follow-up appointments every three months so that your veterinarian can check for new or continued growth (mestasis).
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