Malignant and Benign Tumors in Hamsters
An abnormal growth of cells in a tissue or organ is referred to as a tumor, of which there are two types: benign and malignant. Benign tumors, which do not spread, are much more common in hamsters. Malignant tumors (or cancers), meanwhile, may develop in one location such as the hormone-producing glands or digestive system organs and spread into other body parts. Only four percent of hamsters suffer from malignant tumors.
The most common location of benign tumors is in the adrenal gland, which is near the kidney. Lymphoma (tumor of the lymph glands) is common in older hamsters and is seen all over the lymphatic system like the thymus, spleen, liver and lymph nodes. A type of T-cell lymphoma that affects the skin occurs in adult hamsters. Other tumors can develop in the womb, intestines, brain, skin, hair follicles, fat, or eyes.
The treatment and prognosis depends on where the tumor is situated and how soon the treatment begins. However, prompt treatment by a veterinarian improves the chances of success.
Symptoms and Types
The type of symptoms a hamster exhibits will depend on the location and severity of the tumor. Tumors may be seen on the skin or be located internally, in which case the only external signs are non-specific symptoms, such as depression, dullness, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and diarrhea (with blood in some cases). T-cell lymphoma, which affects the skin, may lead to skin inflammation and/or hair loss, often in sporadic patches.
Both genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a part in the abnormal multiplication of cells, which leads to tumor formation.
If you find an unexpected lump or bump on your hamster, have your pet examined by a veterinarian promptly. Based on the location and appearance of these tumors, he or she can easily diagnose the issue.
For tumors that have developed in the internal organs, it will be necessary to perform ultrasound scan or X-ray. Taking tissue samples from the tumorous mass and examining them (biopsies) can also help to determine if the mass is benign or malignant.
Your veterinarian will likely recommend surgical removal of the tumor because tumors may grow and spread to other locations in the body. Surgical removal in the early stages improves the chances of full recovery. However, late detections may cause some of the tumors to become malignant (cancers).
Living and Management
A hamster recovering from surgery requires supportive care. Consult your veterinarian regarding the type of care and management needed during this postoperative period.