Feline Lymphoma vs. peripheral lymph node enlargement

Lili Duda, VMD
Last Modified: December 30, 2001


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I have a FIV FeLV negative two-year-old male cat undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. He has lymphoma; it is located only in the lymph nodes in his hind legs. My vet says this is not a common place to find lymphoma. She feels he has a very good chance of being one of the few cats that go into remission for years not just months, because it is so localized. He is now in complete remission and is in his seventh week of treatments he goes for radiation in two weeks. He has had a healthy appetite so far and has in fact gained enough weight that he has been put on a diet; he also has a lot more energy than before treatment. My question is how exactly how rare is his case and is there any information out there about the type and location of cancer he has and the outcome of those cases? 


Lili Duda, VMD, Editor of the OncoLink Veterinary Oncology Section, replies:

Complete evaluation of a cat with suspected lymphoma includes: CBC, blood chemistries, chest X-rays, abdominal ultrasound with aspirates if indicated, bone marrow aspirate, and lymph node biopsy and histopathology. If the only abnormality found is one or a few enlarged lymph nodes, biopsy of the lymph node is crucial and a fine-needle aspirate with cytology is not an adequate substitute. Multicentric lymphoma in cats usually involves the peripheral lymph nodes with simultaneous involvement of the spleen and liver. Peripheral lymph node involvement by itself is very unusual and requires careful evaluation to confirm a diagnosis of lymphoma prior to instituting therapy.

Consultation with an oncology specialist is highly recommended. There is a syndrome of peripheral lymph node enlargement reported in FeLV/FIV negative young cats (typically 2-4 years old) that can resemble lymphoma. These cats might have a history of fever and previous viral infection. The enlarged lymph nodes regress spontaneously in this group of cats.