What is Anal Gland Cancer?
Treatment for anal gland cancer is not always effective, but the sooner you begin treatment, the better your cat’s chances are for recovery. If you spot any of the signs of anal gland cancer, take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Anal sac adenocarcinoma, or anal gland cancer, is not common in cats, but when it does develop it tends to spread quickly to other areas of the body, including the lymph nodes. It can occur in one or both anal glands, and the tumors can range in size depending on the severity of the cancer. You may not be able to spot a mass without the help of a veterinarian, but other symptoms are observable. Many cat owners mistake the symptoms of anal gland cancer with symptoms of another, far less serious anal gland disorder.
Symptoms of Anal Gland Cancer in Cats
The most common symptom of anal gland cancer in cats is the formation of a tumor or large mass around the anus. However, the tumor may not be visible in some cats, so it’s important to look for other symptoms as well. Some of the other symptoms of anal gland cancer include:
- Straining during defecation
- Ribbon-like feces
- Loss of appetite
- Scooting across the floor
- Excessively licking the area
- General fatigue
Causes of Anal Gland Cancer in Cats
Unfortunately, there are no known causes for any type of cancer, including anal gland adenocarcinoma. However, it is widely believed that genetics play a large role in determining which cats are at risk of developing cancer. Environmental factors may also contribute to the risk, but this has not been proven through research.
Diagnosis of Anal Gland Cancer in Cats
If you spot any of the symptoms above, take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Describe the symptoms you have witnessed and when you first began to notice them. Based on the description you provide, the vet will know there is an issue with your cat’s anal glands. However, further testing will be needed to determine if it’s a common anal gland disorder, such as impaction, or if it’s cancer.
The vet will begin by performing a rectal examination, during which he should be able to feel the presence of a mass in the anal glands. At this point, the vet may suggest performing a complete blood count test, urinalysis, and blood chemistry profile. This will give the vet a better idea of your cat’s overall health. It will also help the vet determine if your cat has abnormal calcium levels, which is a side effect of some anal gland disorders.
Either a tissue biopsy or fine needle aspirate will need to be performed in order to test the tumor’s cells for cancer. This is a quick procedure that can be done without putting your cat under sedation.
If cancer cells are detected, the vet will need to perform X-rays or CT scans of the chest and abdomen to see if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
Treatment of Anal Gland Cancer in Cats
Treatment will depend on how far the cancer has spread, if at all. The most common treatment method is surgical removal of the anal gland tumor. During the procedure, the vet will also remove tissue surrounding the tumor that may contain cancerous cells. In most cases, the cancer will have spread to the lymph nodes near the anal sac, so these will need to be removed as well.
Chemotherapy may be suggested after the surgery to ensure there are no other cancerous cells forming tumors in other places in your cat’s body. If the tumor cannot be removed for some reason, the vet can treat your cat’s cancer with radiation therapy. This treatment is also helpful when the vet is unable to remove the entire tumor during the surgery.
If your cat had high calcium levels, the vet may need to administer medication and closely monitor him for the next few days to ensure his kidneys are not damaged.
Recovery of Anal Gland Cancer in Cats
Each case of anal gland cancer is unique, so it’s difficult to predict whether your cat will recover if he has been diagnosed with this disease. If the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body, your cat has a much higher chance of fully recovering. In all cases, the sooner you identify your cat’s cancer and begin treatment, the better his chances are of surviving.
If your cat goes through surgery, it’s important to keep the incision area clean while it heals. You should also put a recovery cone or E-collar on your cat to prevent him from licking the affected area.
During cancer treatment, cats may experience nausea and vomiting. Talk to your doctor about changing your cat’s diet during this time to ensure he is getting the nutrients he needs.