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What is Mammary Cancer?

Mammary gland cancers in cats are similar to breast cancer in humans. Mammary cancer is usually a malignant adenocarcinoma that appears in one or more of a cat’s breasts. Other forms of breast and mammary cancer in a cat include adenomas, duct papillomas, and sarcomas. Females, as well as males, can develop this form of cancer. When it appears in cats, it can be fatal, even if treated with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Adenocarcinomas are one of the most aggressive types of cancer, metastasizing or moving to the lymph nodes and other parts of the cat’s body. Siamese cats, cats between the ages of ten and fourteen years of age, and intact (not spayed) females are most likely to develop mammary and breast cancer.

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Mammary Cancer Average Cost

From 228 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$6,000

Symptoms of Mammary Cancer in Cats

Cat owners and their vets will notice the following symptoms:

  • Swelling of the breasts or mammary glands
  • Infection in and around the glands and breasts
  • Skin ulceration surrounding the masses
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Tumors appear as firm nodules firmly attached to the underlying muscle and skin
  • Clear, bloody, or milky discharge from the cat’s nipples
  • Dead (necrotic) tissue at the site of the tumor
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unwillingness to eat
  • Weakness
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Causes of Mammary Cancer in Cats

Several factors seem to influence why cats develop mammary or breast cancer:

  • Leaving cats intact (not spayed)
  • Allowing the cat to have several heat cycles or litters before spaying
  • Cat’s age (cancer usually begins when cats are between 10 and 14 years of age)
  • Hormones: if cats receive medications with estrogen, they are more likely to develop mammary or breast cancer
  • Siamese, Persian and other Oriental breeds, as well as domestic shorthaired cats are at higher risk of developing tumors of the breasts or mammary glands at younger ages
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Diagnosis of Mammary Cancer in Cats

When a pet owner brings in a cat with mammary and breast tumors, the vet will conduct a full physical exam, focusing most on the mass or masses. They will palpate the masses and nearby lymph nodes, looking for a spread of the mass. 

Once this part of the exam is done, the vet orders X-rays, which enable them to determine how big the tumors and whether it has spread. In addition, the vet may order an abdominal ultrasound, looking for a spread of the tumor to other organs. They may also carry out a fine-needle biopsy, where they aspirate lymph nodes to check for the presence of cancer cells. They will order a complete blood count and a biochemical profile, which allows them to check on the cat’s overall health. Other diagnostic tests may include urinalysis and a clotting profile of the drawn blood sample. 

If surgery is decided upon, the surgeon may take a small sample of the tumor and send it to pathology for a biopsy, especially if they are sure the cat has mammary or breast cancer. This biopsy allows the pathologist to determine exactly what kind of cancer the cat has.

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Treatment of Mammary Cancer in Cats

When a pet owner brings in a cat with mammary and breast tumors, the vet will conduct a full physical exam, focusing most on the mass or masses. They will palpate the masses and nearby lymph nodes, looking for a spread of the mass. 

Once this part of the exam is done, the vet orders X-rays, which enable them to determine how big the tumors and whether it has spread. In addition, the vet may order an abdominal ultrasound, looking for a spread of the tumor to other organs. They may also carry out a fine-needle biopsy, where they aspirate lymph nodes to check for the presence of cancer cells. They will order a complete blood count and a biochemical profile, which allows them to check on the cat’s overall health. Other diagnostic tests may include urinalysis and a clotting profile of the drawn blood sample. 

If surgery is decided upon, the surgeon may take a small sample of the tumor and send it to pathology for a biopsy, especially if they are sure the cat has mammary or breast cancer. This biopsy allows the pathologist to determine exactly what kind of cancer the cat has.

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Recovery of Mammary Cancer in Cats

Generally, the prognosis for cats with breast or mammary cancer is guarded, with a few exceptions. If the cat’s tumor is smaller than 2cm, it may survive for up to three years. Cats with tumors between 2 and 3cm may survive fur up to two years and cats whose tumors are larger than 3cm may survive for up to six months. If the cat’s treatment for small tumors that were caught early is aggressive, the cat may live for between two and three years. Cats who underwent large resections (having one or both mammary chains removed) lived post-surgery for up to three years while those cats who had only the tumor removed lived for only one year after surgery.

It benefits the cat to be seen immediately by the vet when its owner detects a suspicious lump.

Over 60 percent of tumors that have been removed will redevelop within 12 months. Because cancerous mammary tumors are so aggressive in cats, their overall prognosis is guarded, especially since these tumors metastasize.

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Mammary Cancer Average Cost

From 228 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$6,000

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Mammary Cancer Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Siamese mix

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Seventeen Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Bump Around Nipple Area

My vet has said that Tula more than likely has mammary cancer. She has a tumor on one of her nipples. She is eating, drinking, no lethargy. No change in behavior. She barely licks it. My vet states she is not a viable candidate for surgery due to her age, she has a mild heart murmur, she has hypothyroidism ( which she has been treated for the last 3 years) and her potassium is low. She gave me medication to bring the potassium up and we cut back on the Methimazole by a quarter. Should I seek another opinion or just go along with my vet until it’s “time?”

July 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, Without examining your dog it would be hard to tell if she could have surgery or not. A second option from another vet may help you decide if your dog needs to have surgery or not. It does sound like your vet was correct with a mammary tumor. I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

July 12, 2020

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Squee

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Maine Coon

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Fluid Expressed
Lump

My cat starting exhibiting symptoms in June. Intially, I felt a lump on her mammary, and made an appointment for the following week. I've predominately had male cats in the past, so it never occured to me that my cat, my sweet Squee, could get mammary cancer. I felt so guilty, like I had been neglecting her. The mass was about the size of a pinky finger tip, tubular in nature. The vet examined her, and was able to completely express the mass down, I was relieved. All her lab work came back great as well. A month later, the mass returned, hardened this time. I took her back, the vet advised surgery. I took about 6 weeks to decide. Her appetite never lacked nor her energy leading up to the surgery, thus I waited. I was hoping it was just scar tissue. It didn't seem to be growing, but I went ahead and scheduled the surgery for last week. It was a grade 1 mammary adenocarcinoma on her left upper mammary. Squee is doing well since the surgery. She also has a heart murmur, making the surgery more dangerous. They only removed the mammary and tumor, and I'm concerned that we should be more aggressive, and continue with the rest of the chain, but the longer the surgery, the more taxing on her little heart. The next step for me is going to be having her x-rayed to ensure the tumor was isolated. I hate this. I just want my sweet, little companion to be okay.

Sept. 18, 2018

Squee's Owner

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Mammary Cancer Average Cost

From 228 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$6,000

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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