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An 'intrathoracic mass' is lump of unwanted tissue within the chest. The mass will appear in the space between the lungs and the thin membranes that surround them and help separate the organs from the diaphragm. This space is most commonly referred to as the 'pleural cavity' (but is also known as the 'intrathoracic cavity') and provides the perfect space for a growth within the lung to expand into. Oftentimes, by the time such a mass is discovered, it will have reached such a size that it is both debilitating and dangerous to the health of the animal. In order to both halt the associated symptoms and prevent further damage to the cat, vets will often opt to surgically remove the mass from the pleural cavity.
Prior to beginning the surgery, the vet will usually perform a final ultrasound scan of the cat's chest in order to confirm the location of the mass, thereby allowing them to take the most direct path to the growth. Next, they will shave a large area of the cat's chest or back (depending on where the incision must be made) and clean the site with antiseptic. The surgeon will then make a vertical incision and reveal the ribcage, which will be carefully cut or broken open. Once past the ribs, the surgeon will proceed to cut through the diaphragm and into the membrane surrounding the lung. At this point, they will be in a position to cut the mass away from the rest of the lung and remove it from the body. The next step is to suture the wound back shut and fix the ribs back in place (usually with the use of surgical wire). Afterwards, the surgeon is able to sew the incision shut and revive the cat. In all, the operation will usually take no more than an hour and the animal will be able to return home after a short period of observation.
The effects of removing the growth will be immediate, relieving any symptoms caused by the pressure being put on the lungs and potentially halting the spread of cancer. That said, the cat will still need time to recover before it will be able to resume its normal levels of activity. Some owners may wish to pursue less invasive treatments such as radiotherapy (targeted doses of radiation) in order to remove tumors, as this will put far less strain on the cat. It should be kept in mind that whilst radiotherapy can be very effective, it does not have as decisive effects as simply cutting the tumor out of the body and still leaves some opportunity for the cancer to spread.
In general, most cats can be expected to recover from major surgery such as an intrathoracic mass removal in roughly six weeks, though more time to heal may be needed by older animals. For the duration of the recovery period, the cat will need to receive regular doses of antibiotics and painkillers in order to lessen the chances of an infection occurring and to minimize the creature's discomfort. Owners will also be required to restrict the cat's exercise as much as possible for the first several weeks, as undue stress placed on the cardiovascular system will only slow down the process of healing.
The price of performing an intrathoracic mass removal will differ depending on the location, size, and nature of the growth, as well as the health and age of the affected cat. In general terms, owners can expect to pay between $400 and $1,000 for the mass to be extracted, with possible additional treatments adding to the bill. Radiotherapy, on the other hand, will cost in excess of $1,000 for basic treatment, with some regimens costing over $3,000.
Be it as it may that cutting out a growth from the pleural cavity is the most efficient option for dealing with the problem, the procedure is not without risk. The first thing that owners may wish to consider before committing is the possibility of infection. The surgery will create a large wound in the cat's torso, which can provide an ideal vector for bacterial infection (though this can be warded off via the proper use of antibiotics). The other possible risk factor is the surgery resulting in a significant portion of a lung having to be removed along with the growth, leading to a decreased level of cardiovascular ability in the cat. To try and avoid this eventuality, most vets will typically opt for alternative methods of treatment if the tumor is too deeply embedded in the lung itself.
Whilst many cancers and cysts develop due to a genetic defect that runs in the cat's family, others can be caused by environmental factors. Some cysts, for example, can appear as a result of infections or other health conditions that damage the lining of the lungs, blocking ducts and enlarging the alveoli that are responsible for both cleaning the lung and absorbing oxygen. By keeping the cat's living environment clean and tidy, owners can mitigate the chances of the animal inhaling a substance that may cause such a condition. Additionally, paying careful attention to sudden changes in a cat's behavior and not being afraid to seek veterinary assistance can result in growths being caught in their early stages, before surgery is the only option.
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Yes hello . My cat is 13 going on 14. I had her to the vet because she was losing weight rapidly and they took xrays of her chest. What they showed and bcc told me almost floored me. He said there is a dense mass in cardio ventral lung field. Suspect neoplausia (cancer). Then he proceeded to tell me that if anything would be done that he would have to send her out. The reason I'm writing to you is I for myself need to know what are the chances of my cat even surviving a major operation like this. Taking in her age and probably weight which is now 7.2 pounds. I was even weighing out the possibility of getting her oxygen if it would help her breath. Is this painful for her I need to know. My vet said she wasn't in any pain but her eyes are so sad and I don't want to make the wrong decision knowing I might have been able to save her. I really need a second opinion and advice on this Please tell me what I should do. This is literally tearing me apart. Thank you for your advice ahead of time. With regards, Colleen Baillie.
June 11, 2018
Without examining Ashes it is difficult to weigh in as I haven’t auscultated the chest or seen any x-ray images; the decision on whether or not Ashes is a candidate for surgery would be the Veterinarian performing the surgery as they need to be sure that the benefits of the surgery outweigh the potential risks. I would recommend visiting another Veterinarian in your area and taking a copy of the x-rays with you so that you can receive a second opinion. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
June 12, 2018
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