What is Bile Duct Cancer?
Bile duct cancer is found in both cats and dogs, especially those over 10 years of age. In general, the outlook is not favorable for cats diagnosed with this type of liver cancer.
Bile duct cancer is a common liver cancer that can be very difficult to treat, due to its fast metastasis rate and aggressive nature. The overall prognosis for cats with this condition depends largely upon the health of the cat and whether the cancer has spread to other organs.
Symptoms of Bile Duct Cancer in Cats
Bile duct cancer can cause a wide array of symptoms in cats. Below is an outline of the most common symptoms associated with this type of cancer in domestic cats:
- Excessive urination
- Increased thirst
- Jaundice or yellow skin and whites of eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Enlarged liver
- Swollen abdomen
There are two different types of bile duct tumors that can develop in cats.
Biliary adenomas are the most common type of liver tumor in cats. This type of tumor is found in 50 percent of feline liver tumors. Biliary adenomas are not cancerous and may not cause problems until they become large enough to push against other organs.
Biliary carcinoma tumors are the second type of liver tumor found in felines. These tumors are malignant and spread rapidly to other areas of the body. Biliary carcinoma tumors are typically located within the liver in the bile ducts.
Causes of Bile Duct Cancer in Cats
The exact reason some cats develop bile duct cancer is unknown. However, veterinarians think there are certain factors that increase the chance of cats developing this type of cancer.
- Parasitic infection
- Exposure to certain types of chemicals or poisons
- Environmental toxins
Diagnosis of Bile Duct Cancer in Cats
Your veterinarian will need some specific information from you to diagnose bile duct cancer in your cat. He will begin by asking you important questions regarding your cat’s past health history. Be sure to include any unusual birth circumstances, previously diagnosed health conditions and when you noticed the onset of symptoms.
After taking a medical history, your doctor will examine your cat. He will observe your cat’s gait, neurological functions and demeanor. He will also draw some blood for testing. The typical panel includes a CBC or complete blood count and a complete biochemical profile. He will also take a urine sample to check for infection. Your doctor will also check the liver enzymes to determine if they are elevated. If so, it could indicate liver damage.
X-rays will also be performed to determine the condition of the liver. An ultrasound may be done for more detailed view of the liver. Chest X-rays may also be done to determine if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. If your doctor suspects liver cancer is present, he will perform a liver biopsy to make the diagnosis. A biopsy is the only way to determine if bile duct cancer is present. This is typically done via fine needle aspiration.
Treatment of Bile Duct Cancer in Cats
If your cat is diagnosed with biliary adenoma, the treatment may vary according to his symptoms. In some cases, no treatment is required as long as the tumor is small. Some veterinarians will use a needle to drain fluid from the tumor or cyst to reduce the likelihood of it pressing against other organs in the body.
Cats diagnosed with biliary carcinoma typically need surgery to remove the tumor. This is the best method of treatment for bile duct tumors. Veterinarians can safely remove up to 75 percent of the liver in order to remove the cancer. Radiation and chemotherapy has not been found to be effective in treating this type of cancer in cats or dogs.
Recovery of Bile Duct Cancer in Cats
The recovery period for cats with biliary adenoma is generally good, depending on if there are any pre-existing conditions or complications. Cats that suffer from biliary duct cancer do not have favorable outlooks, for the most part. This type of cancer is aggressive and spreads so rapidly, it is almost always found in other parts of the body at the time of diagnosis. Even if it is not found present outside the liver, the prognosis is poor.
Many veterinarians recommend non-traditional or holistic treatments to keep pets comfortable after this type of diagnosis. This type of management focuses on keeping pain under control, modifying the cat’s diet for optimal health and promoting overall wellness for the time the cat has left. However, cats that are very sick at the time of diagnosis may not have quality time left to live. In these cases, many veterinarians recommend euthanasia as the most humane course of treatment.
Bile Duct Cancer Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Our 13 year old cat lost weight quickly and after bloodwork and ultrasound a carcinoma mass was found on her liver. Further testing showed that it has not spread yet to lungs so she had liver lobectomy surgery and the entire mass was removed. Surgeon said that it did not look like it spread to her lymph nodes or other organs. Lab results came back and the tumor is bile duct carcinoma. She is now still recovering from the surgery, eating and looking good overall. My understanding is that prognosis is poor and that she has 1-6 (max) months left, even though there isn't spread yet and the tumor was removed in its entirety. Is there anything left we can do to prolong her life?
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