Just like in humans, cancer is a devastating disease that can quickly, unexpectedly and fatally alter your cat's life. While it isn't necessarily fatal, it can seriously diminish the quality of your loved one's life, making the prognosis questionable even if you seek treatment.
Types of Cancer
There are multiple types of cancer, including those that affect blood, bones, vital organs, cells, tissue and the brain. Because cancer takes so many different forms and affects so many different parts of the body, it is virtually impossible to make generalizations about life expectancy. Even if two cats have the same type of cancer, it could affect one more drastically than the other for reasons even doctors can't fully understand or predict.
What Cancer Does
Essentially, cancer is an abnormal and relatively unforeseeable cell growth that expands and consumes your pet, dismantling her body's function one piece at a time. It sometimes presents itself in the form of a growth, or tumor, that can be surgically removed or shrunken with chemotherapy. While this doesn't necessarily remove the cancer that cause the tumor, in some cases it helps the cat enter remission, or the appearance of being cancer-free.
The Vet's Prognosis
Only a veterinarian is qualified to guess how long your cat will live if she has cancer, and he can only do it on a case-by-case basis. Even then, cancer is relatively unpredictable -- it can start to slow down or speed up as it spreads, prolonging or shortening her life expectancy. The amount of time she went before being diagnosed can make a difference, too. If your vet catches the cancer early and before it spreads, the odds of treating it successfully are generally improved.
Treatment and Acceptance
Tragically, just like in humans, there is no known cure for cancer in cats. While you can pursue treatment with the assistance of your veterinarian, it may not be advisable. Undergoing cancer treatments can be a prolonged, physically painful and emotionally stressful time, and your cat has no hope of understanding why she is being subjected to the treatments. As a loving pet owner, the idea of saying goodbye to your companion is immeasurably difficult, but your vet will be able to advise you on the ethics of treating your cat and whether it is more humane to spare her than pain. While you may be able to prolong her life, the quality may not be anywhere near what it was when she was healthy.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.