Hemangiosarcoma is a tumor of blood vessel cells that have become cancerous. Getting this diagnosis can be devastating since this is a particularly aggressive and fast moving type of cancer. Depending on your cat's case, there maybe options available to extend your cat's life just a little bit longer than most. Learn more here.
Finding out that your pet has cancer can be heartbreaking, especially if it is an aggressive type that is difficult or impossible to treat. Hemangiosarcoma -- a tumor of cancerous blood vessel cells -- falls into that category. These tumors can occur anywhere in -- or on -- the body, and they tend to metastasize rapidly, causing dangerous internal bleeding.
In general, the prognosis for cats with hemangiosarcoma is not good. However, depending on the location of the tumor, the degree of spreading, and how well your cat responds to treatment, your veterinarian may be able to extend their life by up to a year.
Types of Hemangiosarcoma in Cats
Hemangiosarcomas are much more common in dogs than they are in cats. However, cats can still develop these tumors, and when they do, the tumors tend to be located one of four places:
- On the skin (dermal)
- Under the skin (subcutaneous)
- Internal organs (visceral)
- In the mouth, usually on the gums (oral)
The cause of hemangiosarcomas in cats is not well understood, but the fact that two of the four main types are located on the head suggest that exposure to sun may be a risk factor, just as it is in humans, as well as exposure to certain chemicals and insecticides.
Treatment for Hemangiosarcoma in Cats
Treatment will depend on the location of the tumor as well as the degree of the cancer’s spread. In most cases, a combination of surgery and systemic therapy (such as chemotherapy or radiation) will be the best option for extending your cat’s life.
- Dermal and subcutaneous hemangiosarcomas are the easiest to remove surgically, and thus have the best prognosis of any type. However, subcutaneous hemangiosarcomas can be difficult to remove completely and have around a 60% recurrence rate. Cats with skin hemangiosarcomas treated with surgery have an average survival time of around 1 year.
- A visceral hemangiosarcoma is the most aggressive type, and approximately 30% of affected cats will be sick enough to warrant euthanasia.
- Some cats with visceral hemangiosarcomas will be candidates for surgery. If the tumor is located on the spleen, the organ will be removed (splenectomy). Surgery may also be an option for tumors located in the liver or heart.
- Tumors in the heart may also be treated with a pericardial tap, which is a surgical procedure in which a needle and catheter are used to remove fluid from the sac around the heart.
- Blood transfusions may be useful if the hemangiosarcoma has resulted in anemia.
- Systemic therapy like chemotherapy or radiation is not a cure, but it may work to slow the growth of the tumor and thus extend the cat’s life. While surgery alone may only extend a cat’s life by 1 to 3 months, surgery plus chemotherapy or radiation may extend it by 8 to 9 months.
If you notice any symptoms of hemangiosarcoma -- including lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, or a visible or felt tumor -- contact your veterinarian right away. They will examine your cat and perform a series of diagnostic tests to determine the best treatment option.
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