10 Year Old Cat With Tumor...What to do?
July 2, 2010 4:02 PM   Subscribe

My 10 year old cat has a hard, unmovable tumor on his breast bone. I am unsure where to go from here.

I noticed a hard lump on my cat Monty's breast bone on Tuesday. Took him to the vet that day. They took a sample from the lump/tumor which came back inconclusive. My vet says he is fairly certain this is cancer based on the fact that it is a hard lump and came up so quickly (within a day or two max).

At this point my options are either do a biopsy, or let it go and "see how it goes". I've been obsessing over this ever since. My cat is 10 years old, overweight, and has had 3 bouts of fatty liver disease which came on whenever we attempted to put him on a diet. I am completely willing to do the biopsy, but if it is definitely cancer and surgery is an option, I most likely will not be able to afford it. Even if I could I don't think it would be a good idea considering his age and somewhat precarious health.

Basically, I'm wondering if it's worth putting my cat through a biopsy? I've googled and have not been able to ascertain just how invasive a biopsy would be. Is it cruel to put him through that even though I know I cannot afford surgery? I really want to know if this tumor is malignant or benign, but that would be my only reason for going ahead with the biopsy.

Experiences? Advice? Any and all responses much appreciated. I just want to do what is best here. I just have no idea what that is.
posted by heavenstobetsy to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
Get the biopsy. Then find out what your vet says about options. There is no reason you can't tell your vet that surgery isn't affordable for you.
posted by bearwife at 4:11 PM on July 2, 2010

I had a female cat some years ago who had when she was 15. Options were to do nothing, to do the surgery, or to do the surgery and chemo. We chose to do the surgery - she lived 4 more years in very good health. For what it's worth, I've had a lot of animals over the years. I've never felt good about the deaths of any of them - whether I let them die "naturally," had them put to sleep, or they died so suddenly, I didn't even know they were ill. Because they can't tell you what they want, you have to do the best you can.

You obviously love your cat a lot. You cannot know whether any choice you might make would be the right one. The only real obligation you have is to see that Monty does not suffer. If you don't think you can afford the surgery and don't think it's wise to attempt it, why not let it go and do palliative care?
posted by clarkstonian at 4:12 PM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Please do what bearwife said and get the biopsy. You haven't taken any sort of steps of action yet and you are already thinking about putting the cat down? Have the biopsy done and then move forward, don't make any sort of decisions until you have some more information.
posted by TheBones at 4:15 PM on July 2, 2010

Response by poster: Sorry if I was not clear. I am definitely not thinking of putting my cat down. That is nowhere on the horizon right now. I'm just trying to determine whether or not I should have a biopsy done.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 4:17 PM on July 2, 2010

Then, yes, have the biopsy done.
posted by TheBones at 4:20 PM on July 2, 2010

A biopsy is likely to involve general anesthesia, a patch of shaved fur, and a couple of stitches if that. You'll have to pay for the surgery, pre-surgical bloodwork, possibly an x-ray, the pathology labs, and any follow-up medication; the vet should be able to tell you exactly how much that will cost. (My general rule of thumb is that if you're going to knock a cat out for something, go ahead and get their teeth cleaned while they're out, but that may not be feasible or recommended here.) The vet will be able to tell you specifically what's involved, but biopsies are generally just a sample or two of a tumor and may even be done entirely with a needle. It should not be terribly invasive, if I'm understanding the location (not behind bone or inside the chest cavity).

It's not a horrible thing to put a cat through, especially if it isn't on a foot or something where you're going to have to dramatically limit mobility for recovery. At best you'll likely be told to keep him quiet after and try to stop him jumping around on things as much as you can for a few days.

But your vet can absolutely answer these questions, and if s/he doesn't, find another vet.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:41 PM on July 2, 2010

IANYV. Much of the cost involved in doing the punch biopsy is the anesthesia and blood work. Given your financial situation, it might be wise to ask for an estimate for removal of the lump, and one for the biopsy and diagnostics. While I completely understand the desire to know exactly what is growing on your cat with 100% certainty, your vet might be able to remove the mass and give you a good 90% sure guess for similar cash outlay as the anes + sending the tissue out for diagnostics.

If that isn't a good option for you, I encourage you to look at how you want to spend your vet care dollars. If you have a finite amount of money to spend on this creature, you may be wise to reserve it for pain management down the road.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 6:42 PM on July 2, 2010

My cat went through this a few years back. It was pretty much as Lyn Never described with the blood work, shaved patch and some stitches. Even though I wasn't sure I could afford anything beyond the biopsy I went ahead and, had it done anyway. Partly because I'd worry endlessly about the unknown/how much time she left and, more importantly, I didn't want her to suffer if it was cancer. It wasn't, thankfully. The way I figured it was at least I'd know what to expect then could decide what to do after the results came back.
posted by squeak at 8:04 PM on July 2, 2010

Biopsy. Your little fella is depending on you. At least you'll know if you can't afford any other options once you get the results back.
posted by elder18 at 8:11 PM on July 2, 2010

Lyn Never, your response was great- the dental comment was a great idea as well. It's hard to give advice without knowing whether it's going to require a needle biopsy (essentially painless) or a surgical biopsy (require general anesthesia). If you can find out and give us that information, that would help.

What will you do if you find out that it is cancerous. Will you proceed with treatment, because my wife, who is a vet, is telling me to write that if you aren't planning on proceeding with treatment, then it isn't necessarily the best idea to put a cat through a surgical biopsy, however if it is cancer and you think you do want to remove it or treat it in some way, then you have to do the procedure to get the answer.

If they are recommending a surgical biopsy, beforehand you should discuss post-op pain medication options because there are really great ways to keep them pain free after a procedure which makes the procedure not as big of a deal.

Please either me-mail me or post the vet's pain care management plan- my wife has specialized in pain management for the past 2 years.

It is also helpful to have some basic bloodwork before general anesthesia. Also, if your vet does think it is cancer, then it would be a good idea to do x-rays to make sure the cancer hasn't spread before putting the cat through the procedure (I'm typing as fast as I can as my wife tells me what to write here, so you will have to forgive the hodge-podge of ideas).
posted by TheBones at 9:38 PM on July 2, 2010

As a disclaimer, I am not a person who runs to the vet. I'm big on the baby shots, but other than that I'm the type to give a 'painless' limp a week to work itself out, note but ignore a couple sneezes, etc.

It seems to me that if they have to knock the cat down to take the biopsy, why not take the whole lump?

It is my policy not to treat animals for cancer, unless it's a relatively quick/cheap thing (like amputating a leg) that will buy them at least a year or so. So for me, if the doc thought it was cancer, I would get the biopsy if I had the money (doubtful w/3 kids) and from there move on to making sure they had a really good rest of their life -- love the hell out of them everyday, give them all the cream or peanut butter bones & steak dinners they deserve, pester the vet until you've memorized all the signs of pain, have pain meds available beforehand for when you'll need them, and put aside money for when it's time (ask about cremation rates, if you'll want their cremains back). My 'baby', a cat named Matthew, slept on my head every night for 18.5 years and I was so terrified of his time that I started worrying & parsing all this out when he turned 10. He never got cancer, but what I wrote above was the plan that I thought I'd feel best about after he was gone.

Crossing my fingers the lump turns out to be nothing, and you guys have many, many more years together.
posted by MeiraV at 12:42 PM on July 4, 2010

« Older Build an ERP from scratch? Are we crazy?!   |   Step one: learn how to pronounce "Louisville" Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.