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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 22423
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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A relatives cat has today been diagnosed with cancer & is being

Customer Question

A relatives cat has today been diagnosed with cancer & is being put to sleep, my query is he is quite an elderly cat & has been back & forth to the vets on many occasions over the last few months & had various blood tests, would or should cancer have been picked up sooner ?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you today.

Now it is important to first mention that no routine blood test will have caught or diagnosed cancer. This isn't even something that we have for human medicine. So, while those tests he had via blood sample would have picked up organ dysfunction, hormonal diseases, or even given hints of lurking infection; cancer diagnosis is not something a blood sample can really do.

Otherwise, in regards ***** ***** examinations at his vets, catching a tumor on exam alone does depend on a number of factors. First, it will depend on the cat. If we have cats that are aggressive, fat, have fluid in their bellies, full stomachs, or tense their abdomens when we examine them; it is possible to miss subtle cancerous changes until they are too big for that cat to hide.

Next, we have to consider the cancer type. Some cancers will be located out of reach and cannot be palpated on exam. For example, cancer in the lungs cannot really be diagnosed unless we xray so that we can see it present in those lungs. We may have suspicions if the cat cannot breathe or is prone to pneumonias; but if the cancer is silent in the lungs it could easily not be found unless we were to xray. And this would be similar for cancers involving the heart or lymph nodes in the chest as well.

As well, even for cancers on organs we can palpate (ie liver, kidney, gut) can be tricky to catch. This is because tumors can be a single mass or it can be diffuse and spread through the organ. For mass like tumors, these can be felt once they are large enough and in reach (since some stomach masses can be missed because of the ribs blocking our access) to be distinguished from other tissues. If it is the latter, one cannot necessarily determine if it is present unless they were to ultrasound to see the diffuse tumor intermixed with the normal tissue and cells. And I would note that diffuse type tumors are especially an issue for liver and gut based cancers.

Overall, diagnosing cancer can be tricky for animals just as it can for people. The blood tests would not have tipped their vet off to its presence and it again depends on location, cancer type, cancer form, and Murphy's tolerance to the cancer to whether they would have been able to catch this sooner then they did.

Please take care,
Dr. B.