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What is Pancreatic Cancer?

If a veterinarian diagnoses your cat with pancreatic cancer, it means your cat has a malignant tumor affecting the function of her pancreas. Your veterinarian may also refer to this tumor as a pancreatic adenocarcinoma, which distinguishes it from a non-benign tumor, or pancreatic adenoma. Adenocarcinomas are serious and often fatal. It is extremely important that you contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your cat may be suffering from pancreatic cancer. 

Your cat’s pancreas is responsible for the production of digestive enzymes and insulin. The pancreas is a critically important organ for digestion and the maintenance of healthy blood sugars. Any type of pancreatic insufficiency, the failure of the pancreas to produce the enzymes and hormones for which it is responsible, is serious and potentially fatal for your cat. One condition that may lead to pancreatic insufficiency in cats is a malignant or nonmalignant tumor.

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Pancreatic Cancer Average Cost

From 320 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$6,000

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer in Cats

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer in cats may not manifest until late in the disease process. The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are very similar to those of pancreatitis, and your veterinarian will likely perform tests to eliminate a diagnosis of pancreatitis if he suspects your cat may have pancreatic cancer. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately if your cat is exhibiting one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

If pancreatic cancer has advanced and spread to other organs, your cat may exhibit symptoms not specific to any one organ system, such as:

  • Bone or skeletal pain
  • Labored breathing
  • Hair loss
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
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Causes of Pancreatic Cancer in Cats

The exact cause of pancreatic cancer in cats is not understood at this time. Pancreatic cancer is more common among older cats, suggesting it may be related to advanced age or a combination of risk factors. Some cats and cat breeds are also genetically predisposed to cancer, suggesting there may be an inherited genetic component.

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Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer in Cats

Your veterinarian will begin the diagnostic process with a comprehensive physical examination and collection of a comprehensive medical history. If the tumor is large enough, your veterinarian may palpate the mass near your cat's pancreas. While this is a good clue that a cat has a pancreatic tumor, it is not a definitive method of diagnosis. 

The next step in the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in cats is the collection of urine and blood samples. Your veterinarian will order a chemistry profile, complete blood count and urine culture performed on these samples. Pancreatic cancer in cats typically manifests in labs as elevated white blood cells, low potassium, elevated bilirubin (jaundice), azotemia (build-up of metabolic waste in the blood), elevated blood sugars, and elevated liver enzymes. However, a cat whose cancer has not progressed may not exhibit any of these clinical findings. In that event, further diagnostic tests may be ordered.

Radiography (x-ray) imaging may show fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity. Ultrasonography may be used to visualize a soft mass over the pancreas.The only conclusive test for pancreatic cancer in cats, however, is a biopsy of the mass guided by an ultrasound or exploratory surgery. Your veterinarian will weigh the risk of performing these diagnostic procedures against the benefit of a confirmatory diagnosis.

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Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer in Cats

If your veterinarian chooses to perform exploratory surgery, he will likely remove part or all of your cat's pancreas at the time of surgery. If the cancer has not metastasized and spread at this point, the chance of uncomplicated recovery is great.

In the event a cat's cancer has spread, as with late-stage cancers, your veterinarian may attempt surgical resection of the tumors. The success rate of this surgery is low, however. Unfortunately, there has been little success using radiation therapy or chemotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer in cats.

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Recovery of Pancreatic Cancer in Cats

While advanced stages of pancreatic cancer in cats may carry a grave prognosis, there are some pain management and anti-inflammatory options to offer cats relief. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs are useful to reduce inflammation of the pancreas and relieve pain. 

Following surgery for diagnosis or tumor resection, the surgical site should be kept clean. Follow-up appointments with your veterinarian are crucial while the surgical site is healing to prevent infection or complications. 

A cat with pancreatic cancer may also suffer unpleasant gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Follow-up appointments with your veterinarian are important to keep a cat comfortable through these symptoms. A veterinarian may prescribe medications or a special diet to aid digestion.

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Pancreatic Cancer Average Cost

From 320 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,000

Average Cost

$6,000

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Pancreatic 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 Tabby

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Three Years

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

Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Redness

My cat started losing his fur around 8/6. We've gone to two vets, had him put on prednisolone, but he continues to lose fur. His back paws are bare as is his belly. And his skin is coming off like peeling skin of a sunburn. He can't eat dry food because it hurts but will eat soft food. He seems to have troubles eating though. He is having troubles walking (paw pads are just bare) so climbing into the cat box is difficult. He is wetting on himself and defecating outside the box and just laying in it.

Aug. 20, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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1 Recommendations

So sorry to hear about your cat. There are many reasons for hair loss in cats. If he does not get better, it may be best to take a small skin sample and send off to a dermatopathologist to see what is causing these issues. Your vet should be able to do this or a veterinary dermatologist should be able to help him. Good Luck.

Aug. 20, 2020

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dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Siamese Tabby

dog-age-icon

Three Years

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

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Redness

My cat started losing his fur around 8/6. We've gone to two vets, had him put on prednisolone, but he continues to lose fur. His back paws are bare as is his belly. And his skin is coming off like peeling skin of a sunburn. He can't eat dry food because it hurts but will eat soft food. He seems to have troubles eating though. He is having troubles walking (paw pads are just bare) so climbing into the cat box is difficult. He is wetting on himself and defecating outside the box and just laying in it.

Aug. 20, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Sara O. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

So sorry to hear about your cat. There are many reasons for hair loss in cats. If he does not get better, it may be best to take a small skin sample and send off to a dermatopathologist to see what is causing these issues. Your vet should be able to do this or a veterinary dermatologist should be able to help him. Good Luck.

Aug. 20, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

Pancreatic Cancer Average Cost

From 320 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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