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Old 06-12-2006, 12:05 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Lymphoma/Carcinoma & prednisone (steroid)

Let me briefly describe what has happened to my 14 years old female cat, Gigi, recently. Gigi has had chronic diarrhea since early May and that worried me a lot since her blood-related brother died of GI problems couple years ago. So I brought her to the vet and she had a bloodwork done. I was told the values (like RBC and PK) were in the abnormal range and was given Petonics for her and see if that helps her diarrhea. But after a week or so, her stools turned from paste to jelly/watery WITH blood, so I took her to a local ASPCA hospital for a second opinion.

After $2,000 in bloodwork, ultrasound, and pine needle sample tests, the doctor from the ASPCA concluded that Gigi either has Lymphoma or Carcinoma. I was told Lymphoma can be treated by prednisone but Carcinoma has to be treated by surgery and chemotherapy.

As I was told EVEN WITH treatments on either situation (chemo or chemo + surgery), her survival time would NOT exceed 18 months, though if surgery needs to be performed, she might die immediately or days afterward if the cancerous cells spread out (??)

So my questions are:

1) further procedures are needed to determine if Gigi has either Lymphoma or Carcinoma and biopsy + colonoscopy are the best combo as I was told. This combo would cost around $1,200 or so though another option would be surgical biopsy but it's very invasive, risky and costly ($2,000+.) But even these are performed, the vet stated that it's NOT 100% certain they would find anything as well. Cost is a problem but I also hate to see Gigi going through the pain and how stressful she is every time I carry her into the hospital. I wonder how successful (like 50%, 80%...etc) biopsy + colonoscopy are in determining what type of tumor a cat has?

2) what are the side effects of prednisone (steroid)? I acknowledge that side effects are different on humans vs animals, but my mom has several side effects after having steroid to treat her back pain.

3) what's the life expectancy whether I treat Gigi or not? Is it really only maxing out at 18 months?

Thanks in advance with ANY feedbacks!
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Old 06-12-2006, 01:24 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Oh the poor baby. I am sorry for you and Gigi. My little Gizmo is her age and also has some potentially serious health problems.

Prednizone is a steroid. It can eventually destroy the cat's immune system. Gizmo had violent diarrhea from it and was in considerable pain.
If your doctor thinks that the prednizone will help Gigi, I'd believe him, unless your cat has a history of side effects from medicine.
She would also drink a lot more and possibly eat more, which might actually be good for her.

My first reaction to your question would be to consider the cat's quality of life. If she is not in obvious pain I'd keep her out of the hospitals, and put her on a holistic diet and hope that this helps her live longer. It's what I am doing for my Gizmo.

good luck.
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Old 06-12-2006, 01:25 PM   #3 (permalink)
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actually I misread that, my cat Gizmo is only four years old.

Gigi is 14. I'd keep her comfortable and happy until it was obvious that she was in pain and then help her to a better place. But that's just my take on the matter...you should do what is best for you and her.
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Old 06-12-2006, 02:07 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I'm really sorry to hear what is happening with Gigi, it's an awful thing to go through.

I recently did a lot of research on lymphoma as my Callie was having diarrhea and vomiting issues and gastrointestinal lymphoma was a possible diagnosis for her (she was eventually diagnosed with IBD). Unfortunately every thing I read indicates that prognosis is not good for lymphoma and the 18 months is a best case if it is caught early. Callie was on predinisone for her IBD for about 7-8 months without any serious side effects. Diabetes is the mostly likley problem (beyond the drinking and eating that Gizmocat mentioned--which aren't awful).

I think if it were me dealing with this, the first question I would ask myself is what my actions would be if I had a diagnosis. If all the tests were run and the diagnosis is carcinoma, can you support doing chemo? What is involved? Would she have to spend a lengthy time at the vets? What are the side effects? How far would you have to travel (many local vets do not do this type of treatment--are you in fairly close proximity to Angel Memorial (Brighton or Allston I think--basically Boston) or Tufts (Shrewsbury), as they might be your prime choices (guess you can tell where I'm from). Do you work? Can you get the time off? If this is something you know you cannot do from an emotional (for you & gigi), financially and logistical standpoint, then it might not make sense to do the tests or even the surgery. You might just want to treat her with the Prednisone as if it's lymphoma, see how that goes and just enjoy your time together.

One other option may be to get a consultation at Tufts or Angel Memorial, they are on the leading edge of these things and might have some better info for you. I had an oncology consultation at Tufts (that was for Callie too) a couple years ago and it was not prohibitively expensive (I think it was between $100-200). You would need a referral from your vet.

Good luck and keep us posted.
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Old 06-12-2006, 02:53 PM   #5 (permalink)
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My cat had a tumor on her belly that turned out to be cancer, and after having removed that one within 5 weeks she was back in the getting a second node removed, being the first tumor was cancerous the Vet xrayed the lungs to see if it had spread to them, when they were found clear I had them go ahead and remove the second node, once the cancer grows in the lungs it is more difficult to treat and probally cost prohibitive on my budget.

Its been a little over a week since he last tumor was removed and she is doing fine. I hope you can find your problem and get her treated. Can you have another Vet check over the test results? Do they know if her lungs are being effected?
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Old 06-14-2006, 01:15 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks for all the replies as there are some useful information.

gizmo, how long did the Prednizone have an effect on Gizmo? One day? One week? I acknowledge Gizmo is much younger than my Gigi, and every cat is different, but it's good to know what to expect, especially side effects. The quality of life for Gigi at this moment is good, except that she's lost some weights in the past month (from 14.5 to 13.5+/-) due to the diarrhea, as she's still eating, and playing.

doodlebug, Gigi was treated at MSPCA on S. Huntington Ave in Boston. We could afford the treatment (biopsy) somewhat, but we hate to see Gigi going through both emotional + physical roller coaster rides and that's the biggest factor we're hesitated to bring her back for further analysis. As I stated above, she's eating, playing, fighting with other cats as of today, I just don't want her to go through many painful procedures endlessly WITHOUT any certainty on what type of tumor she has. I remember when Gigi's blood-related brother, Wormy, had very similar symptoms couple years ago. We forced fed him some medications and he was so depressed every time we fed him. Plus my gf (now spouse) and I had to work full-time and we had to leave the house after feeding him in the morning, that was a lot of pain for him and us. At the end, Wormy didn't last more than 2 months and he died without much happiness...I even remember we went home late one night because we were ordering our wedding invitations and that's when Wormy lost consciousness (and died the next day.) I was so depressed when he left us so I certainly don't want Gigi to go through a similar process as she witnessed how depressed (since cat has short memories so I doubt she remembers that) Wormy was. Also, Angel requires what type of tumor had been determined prior to visiting an oncologist...

Cat Daddy, as far as we/vet know, the tumor is residing near her colon, and it has NOT spread to any other organ as every other organ they checked (brain, heart, lungs, stomach, liver, and kidney) is working fine.

Thanks again everyone, I will keep you guys posted!
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Old 06-14-2006, 07:40 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Prednisone does not destroy the immune system. It does suppress the immune system and if you or your pet is on a relatively high dose, it should not be completely stopped without a tapering off period because your body will be acclimated to the steroid and will not be able to compensate so quickly for cessation. Sometimes after using it for a long time, it might seem like your body is compromised once you stop taking it because the body has not yet resumed normal steroid production.

The only real long term effects of prednisone involve accelerating age-related degeneration, stuff like muscle weakness, thinning of the bones, cataracts, etc. It's not a great drug to take for a long time for those reasons, but it's hardly the disastrous immune-system killer that was implied above. It is prescribed very often in both pets and humans without such disastrous effect.
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Old 06-14-2006, 07:41 PM   #8 (permalink)
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As for side-effects, they are generally mild but not always. Typical steroidy side effects if any. Mild increase in energy and that sort of thing. Plus less able to heal from infections, being that it does have immuno supressant qualities.
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Old 06-16-2006, 12:17 PM   #9 (permalink)
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TAsunder, thanks for your explanation.

As directed by the vet, Gigi has started 0.5 ml of Prednisone twice daily. She's had couple doses yesterday and it seems she's become weaker than before though her feces are back to paste-like instead of watery.

One other thing I also noticed is her eyes. It's like having a membrane-like cover on both of her eyes, a little blurry. I remember my other old cats had such situation weeks prior to their death. Does anyone know if I am overly sensitive or paranoid about the blurry eyes?
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Old 06-16-2006, 12:35 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default prednizone

Gizmo had very bad diarrhea starting on the second day of the Prednizone and stopping three days later. The vet claims the two symptoms could not be related. Gizmo also displayed other symptoms of Prednizone side effects such as eating and drinking more.
Of course all cats are different. I don't think it is coincidental that Gizmo's health improved when she was off the Prednizone, but it's obviously useful for other conditions.

The membrane on the cat's eye may be its third eyelid in which case I'd call the vet and let them know that it was showing.

good luck.
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