Lymphoma (Lymphosarcoma) is a one of various cancers that can affect cells of the immune system. Lymphoma usually attacks organs of the immune system – lymph nodes (like the glands in the throat or under the armpits), spleen and bone marrow, but lymphoma can affect any organ in the body including the skin.
It is one of the most common and most treatable forms of cancer we see in pets, but there are 40+ different forms of lymphoma, so finding out exactly what is going on is really important when are are trying to work out a treatment plan and prognosis.
Ben presented to us with enlarged lymph nodes; predominantly affecting the glands in his throat and shoulders, but also the peripheral glands elsewhere in his body.
Before we can start any treatment we need to take samples, including biopsies to establish exactly what is going on. We also do blood tests to check the health of organs and to see what the blood is doing (haematology). A pathologist will examine our samples and often apply special stains giving further information, helping us to identify exactly what is happening.
We will also do further ‘staging’ tests including taking xrays of the chest and abdomen, an ultrasound scanning other organs like the spleen and liver, often taking further samples.
Treatment for lymphoma involves developing a treatment protocol, often using a number of different chemotherapy drugs. Most patients (like Ben) visit us weekly as an outpatient for treatment, then later, when all is going well, every 3 to 4 weeks. Most patients, including Ben, respond really well to chemotherapy with minimal side effects, which we can usually control.
Ben started his treatment in March 2016 and thus far hasn’t looked back. Although he comes for regular check ups and further treatment, Ben has been in remission all of this time.
The average life expectancy for a lymphoma patient is a few weeks, longer with steroid treatment. Those receiving chemotherapy live a good quality of life for an average of 12 – 24 months, depending on the type of cancer they have and how well they respond to treatment. Having said this, some don’t fair as well, but others can be apparently cured or remain in remission for many years.
Chemotherapy and the various tests we need to do can become expensive over time; this is one very good reason why we recommend Pet Insurance for all our dog, cat and rabbit patients.
Good luck Ben – we hope we have you around for a very long time yet.