What are Tumors of the Nerves?
These tumors, which are not likely to spread rapidly, if at all, may be located deep within the cat’s body. Invasive surgery is often required in these cases. Peripheral nerve sheath tumors may have “roots” that extend beyond the tumor mass. If these roots are not removed during surgery, the tumor is likely to come back.
Peripheral nerve sheath tumors are a rare disorder that typically affects older cats. Peripheral nerve sheath tumors can be benign or malignant. These tumors may also be referred to as schwannomas, neurofibromas, or neurofibrosarcomas. They may be located on the brain or spinal cord, but can also be found on the head and neck. However, nerve tumors can affect any part of the body, including internal organs.
Symptoms of Tumors of the Nerves in Cats
Your cat’s symptoms will depend on where the tumor is located in the body. If tumors are compressing the nerves, your cat may become debilitated and show more serious symptoms.
Look out for the following symptoms of peripheral nerve sheath tumors.
- White or tan hard bumps protruding against the skin
- Muscle atrophy
- Pain and discomfort
If you notice lameness or muscle atrophy as symptoms, your cat’s tumor is likely to have a reduced prognosis as it will be diagnosed at a late stage. Treatment may require amputation of the affected limb in severe cases. It is imperative that you take your cat to the vet right away if you notice these symptoms.
Causes of Tumors of the Nerves in Cats
The cause of nerve tumors in cats is not fully understood. Tumors can be composed entirely of Schwann cells, which are a type of specialized cell that produces the myelin sheath. This sheath provides an extra layer of protection for structures in the neurons found in the nerves, in addition to communicating with other nerve cells. Tumors may also be formed of a mix of Schwann and fibroblastic (active in connective tissue) cells.
Apart from this, the cause of peripheral nerve sheath tumors are idiopathic, or without an identifiable cause.
Diagnosis of Tumors of the Nerves in Cats
Your vet will be able to identify the clinical signs of peripheral nerve sheath tumors. They may also conduct a number of tests, including a nerve and/or tumor biopsy, fine needle biopsy, blood cell count, urinalysis, X-rays, and ultrasonography. The vet may also utilize exploratory surgery followed by a histopathology in the event that a biopsy is not diagnostic.
Treatment of Tumors of the Nerves in Cats
Surgery is the most effective treatment option for peripheral nerve sheath tumors and is usually completely curative, particularly if the tumor is benign. However, if the entire tumor isn’t removed, the tumor has a high recurrence rate. Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors have a higher chance of recurring, even with complete removal, but will rarely spread.
If the tumor is malignant and is unable to be removed completely, radiation treatment may be suggested in order to excise cancer tumors remaining after an operation. Peripheral nerve sheath tumors do not respond to chemotherapy. Additionally, tumors that are located on the brain, spinal cord, or deep within the nerve roots have a higher chance of causing neurological damage, and therefore have a bleaker prognosis. They are also more difficult to remove entirely, subsequently resulting in a higher rate of recurrence.
Recovery of Tumors of the Nerves in Cats
Your pet’s recovery and probability of recurrence will depend on the benignity or malignancy of the tumor, its location on the body, and whether or not the entire tumor was removed during surgery.
In all cases of recovery, you’ll want to watch your cat closely and make sure it is not irritating the surgery site. Try and ensure your cat rests well following surgery. If your cat experiences any pain following the operation, your vet may prescribe pain management medication.
If the tumors are malignant and your cat is undergoing radiation therapy, weight loss, and reduced appetite are common side effects. Your vet may suggest a change in diet in order to better stimulate your cat’s appetite. However, brief loss of appetite (up to 2 days following surgery) is common in cats. Your vet will recommend techniques that will stimulate your cat’s appetite. If your cat is still not eating regularly after 7 days following the surgery, consult your vet immediately.
Your vet will likely schedule one or more follow-up appointments to monitor your cat’s condition and to see whether the tumor has recurred.