Each week, as Lisa-Maria Padilla trims her cats’ nails, she gives them an all-over body check to make sure everything looks and feels normal. A little over a year ago, she noticed that her 10-year-old cat Twyla, a blue Abyssinian, had a tiny nodule near one of her nipples. It wasn’t painful and Twyla wasn’t behaving differently, but Padilla knew something wasn’t right.
She took Twyla to her veterinarian, who surgically removed the nodule, along with a distal lymph node – from behind a hind leg – and sent them to a pathology lab for analysis. More than 90 percent of feline mammary tumors are malignant, says board-certified veterinary oncologist Gregory Ogilvie, and Padilla knew that. She was prepared for the worst.
The tumor was indeed cancerous, and tests on the lymph node indicated that the cancer had already metastasized into the lymphatic system.
“If there was good news, it was that both an ultrasound of Twyla’s abdominal area and radiographs of her chest showed no signs that the cancer had spread there,” Padilla says.
Based on Twyla’s overall good health and strong physical condition – she was the first winner of the Cat Fanciers Association Feline Agility National – Padilla opted for the standard of treatment: a radical mastectomy to remove all four mammary glands on the cancer-affected side, followed by a radical mastectomy to remove all the mammaries on the other side.
Padilla questioned her decision to fight the cancer, but two days later, Twyla was eager to eat and wanted to play. Her condition improved rapidly, and the most difficult part of recovery was keeping her confined for three weeks so she could heal. She’s a sociable cat, so not only did Padilla spend time sitting on the floor next to her cage to keep her company, she also asked neighbors to come in and spend time with her while she was at work.
Once the surgical incisions healed, Twyla began receiving chemotherapy, a total of five rounds given every two to three weeks.
In Twyla’s case, chemotherapy brought another challenge.
“After the first chemo infusion, the vets realized that Twyla would have to be sedated for each treatment, as she is too active and ‘busy,’ ” Padilla says.
The high-dose regimen complete, Twyla now receives a daily low dose of medication. Called metronomic therapy, the goal is to stop remaining tumor cells from sprouting blood vessels – in effect, to starve them.
“The tablet is compounded to taste like chicken, so Twyla thinks she’s getting a treat every morning,” Padilla says. “If there has been a challenge with the low-dose chemo tablet, it is keeping Twyla’s weight up. The tablet can make her stomach a little upset, so she is not hungry, but it doesn’t make her vomit. …
“Twyla is one very happy girlfriend,” Padilla continues. “She loves every day, and at 11 years old, remains probably the most active cat in my house.”
Pet Connection is headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton.