You may often hear the word “lymphoma” used in the context of cancer — in both humans and in pets. That’s because lymphoma is, in fact, a type of cancer. More specifically, it’s a malignancy that attacks lymphatic tissue (a component of the immune system that can be found in various areas of the body).
As a group, lymphomas represent about a third of all feline cancers. And the intestinal system, which is one of the places lymphatic tissue is located, is the most common site of lymphoma in cats. About 40 percent of all cats with lymphoma have the intestinal form. While intestinal lymphoma in cats is sometimes referred to as gastrointestinal lymphoma, most cases affect only a cat’s small intestine.
Veterinary scientists don’t fully understand the causes of intestinal lymphoma, but there are two primary risk factors for the cancer: age and history of immune diseases.
Cats who are 9 or older are much more likely to develop intestinal lymphoma than younger cats. In addition, cats with a history of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia virus (FeLV) may be in jeopardy of developing a lymphoma. Fortunately, there are vaccines for both FIV and FeLV, so it’s important to have your cats immunized.
If your cat has already developed the disease, it’s possible that the cancer will spread more rapidly if he is exposed to secondhand smoke.