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How to detect mammary tumours in cats

Uterine tumours are one of the most common forms of cancer in our cats. As 85-95% of the tumours are malignant, it can be very serious for female cats.
How to detect mammary tumours in cats

Symptoms of mammary tumours in cats

Lumps in the udder can be a mammary tumour. Usually there is more than one nodule when detected. If your cat is bothered by the lump(s), they may lick around the area.

Feel your cat's teats regularly

Because mammary tumours in cats are often malignant, it is important to find them early, no matter how small they may be. Make it a habit to feel the cat's underbelly once a week. Females usually have four udder parts with each teat and they sit along the underside of the chest and abdomen.

How to examine your cat

  • Examine your cat regularly to detect lumps at an early stage
  • Look and feel for swelling, lumps or bumps on the abdomen from the armpit to the groin
  • Use your fingertips and gently feel the female cat's udder.
  • A mammary tumour can be very small. In the early stages, tumours can feel like grains of rice or gravel
  • Contact your vet if you find a change or lump

Which cats get mammary tumours?

Female cats that are not castrated have an increased risk of suffering from mammary tumours. The same applies to female cats taking birth control pills. Unneutered cats or cats that are neutered after 2 years of age are 7 times more likely to develop mammary tumours.

Neutering your cat at an early age can act as prevention, so if you're cat is not being bred, make sure you get them done. Neutering should be performed before the age of 1 to have a protective effect. 

How a cat with a mammary tumour is treated

Early extensive surgery increases the cat's chances of survival. It reduces the risk of new nodules and can stop the spread to the lungs.

In the procedure, affected udder parts are surgically removed on the cat. To increase survival, udder parts that do not have lumps can also be removed. Usually, a nearby lymph node is also removed to find out if tumour cells may have spread. The tissue is then sent for analysis at a laboratory.

Before surgery for mammary tumours, an x-ray examination of the chest cavity is often performed to rule out that the tumours have had time to spread.

How long can a cat live with a mammary tumour?

The earlier the tumour is detected, the better the prognosis for your cat.

When do I need to see a vet?

Contact the vet if your cat has a lump or other type of skin change, especially in the udder.

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