What is Tumors of the Vagina?
However, in some very rare cases, vaginal tumors can be malignant – the tumors are then referred to as leiomyosarcomas. These tumors are more likely to grow in size and spread to other areas.
Vaginal tumors in cats are quite rare, and are typically benign tumors of the smooth muscle. These include leiomyomas and fibromas. The cause of these tumors is not fully understood, but may be hormone dependent. Benign smooth muscle tumors are small masses of tissue that are typically localized to one area – in this case, the vulva. These tumors will protrude slightly, and are rarely found inside the vagina.
Symptoms of Tumors of the Vagina in Cats
Many cats that have benign tumors do not experience symptoms or discomfort. However, cancerous tumors may cause pain and other symptoms.
- Tough mass(es) of tissue protruding from the vulva
- Bleeding from the vulva
- Vaginal discharge
- Pain during urination
- Blood present in the urine
- Frequent grooming of the vulva
- More frequent bowel movements than usual
- Severe weight loss due to lack of appetite
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
If you notice any of these symptoms, particularly weight loss and pain, it is important to take your cat to the vet immediately.
Causes of Tumors of the Vagina in Cats
Unfortunately, little research exists on the causes of vaginal tumors in cats. However, it has been observed that spayed cats do not typically suffer from vaginal tumors. This is because benign tumors are often hormone dependent. There is no particular predisposition for the tumors with regards to breed or age. Vaginal tumors in cats can cause breeding problems, as well as problems during labor.
Diagnosis of Tumors of the Vagina in Cats
The vet may perform a number of diagnostic tests to determine if your cat has a vaginal tumor. These tests include:
- Urethrocystography: a radiography of the urethra and bladder using a contrast injection
- Retrograde vaginography: a radiography of the vagina using a contrast injection to show tumors
- Vaginoscopy: using an instrument to better examine the vagina
- Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA): a type of biopsy
- Histopathology: examining a biopsy using a microscope
- Traditional ultrasound
The vet will also ask about your cat’s reproductive history, including whether or not your cat has been spayed and when you noticed the tumors. Be sure to inform the vet of all your cat’s symptoms, as this will assist the vet in determining whether or not the tumors are cancerous.
Treatment of Tumors of the Vagina in Cats
For feline vaginal tumors, surgery is the best option to remove the tumors despite whether or not they are cancerous. Chemotherapy and radiation treatment may also be used for malignant tumors.
Benign tumors are best treated through surgery. Essentially, the surgery will result in your cat being spayed, as the tumors are incredibly rare in unspayed cats. Spaying your cat is seen as the best course of treatment because benign vaginal tumors are often hormone dependent. The surgery also will involve a resection, which is the removal of the tumor masses.
The treatment course for malignant tumors is typically more invasive. The vet will typically perform a vulvovaginectomy as well as a perineal urethrostomy. This is done to remove the malignant masses. Your vet will also likely prescribe a change in diet, particularly if your cat is undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
Recovery of Tumors of the Vagina in Cats
For benign tumors, surgery is usually completely curative. For malignant tumors, the prognosis will depend on the type of tumors and whether or not they have spread. If the cancer is particularly aggressive, advanced, or if it has spread to other areas, surgery may help on a purely palliative level. This means that is performed primarily to relieve pain and discomfort. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments may also help slow the growth of the tumors.
You’ll need to watch your cat closely following surgery. An Elizabethan collar may be given to ensure that your cat isn’t irritating the surgery site. Medication for postoperative pain management may also be prescribed. Never use over-the-counter pain medications if your cat is suffering from pain, as these may be harmful and cause further complication.
Your vet will likely schedule a follow-up appointment to remove the sutures (if non-dissolvable), ensure that there have not been any complications from the surgery, and determine that your cat is urinating normally. If your cat is suffering from malignant tumors, your vet may schedule several follow-up appointments following surgery to monitor their condition.