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Splenic Tumors

General Information

The spleen is a long, flattened vascular organ in the abdominal cavity. It has many functions, including storage of blood, making new blood cells, destroying old blood cells and maintaining resistance to infection. Though it is an important organ, the spleen is not essential to life and can be removed if a tumor is present.

Signs of splenic tumors can vary, from anemia to obvious enlargement of the abdomen. Often splenic tumors are found incidentally during abdominal surgery for other conditions. These tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Laboratory examination of the tissue after removal is necessary to determine this.

Understanding Your Pet's Medical Diagnosis

What is hemangiosarcoma of the spleen or liver?

Hemangiosarcoma of the spleen or liver is a serious and life-threatening cancer. Generally, a large mass develops in the liver or spleen. It spreads rapidly (that is, it is highly metastatic), most frequently to the liver (from the spleen) or the lungs (from the spleen and liver). It is malignant, tending to progress and result in death. The tumors can rupture, leading to sudden, severe internal bleeding (acute hemorrhage), collapse, and possibly death.

What causes hemangiosarcoma of the spleen or liver?

The cause of hemangiosarcoma of the spleen or liver is unknown in dogs and cats. However, some toxic substances (such as arsenic, vinyl chloride, and thorium dioxide) have been shown to cause this type of cancer in humans.

What are the signs of hemangiosarcoma of the spleen or liver?

The first sign of hemangiosarcoma of the spleen or liver can be sudden death because of acute blood loss. If death is not sudden, signs may include weight loss, weakness, intermittent collapse, unsteady gait, lameness, seizures, or confusion. This disease generally occurs in older animals, although it can be seen in pets under one year old.

How is hemangiosarcoma diagnosed?

Hemangiosarcoma is diagnosed upon a good medical history and thorough physical examination. The veterinarian will look for signs suggestive of internal bleeding, such as fast heartbeat, pale gums and tongue, and swollen abdomen that can occur due to fluid or blood collecting in the abdomen. The veterinarian may be able to palpate the tumor. A complete blood count (CBC) will be done to check for anemia. Tests for clotting time may be done. The veterinarian may remove blood or fluid from the abdominal cavity by inserting a needle into the abdomen (abdominocentesis) and withdrawing a sample using a syringe. A mixture of blood and fluid or frank blood that does not clot usually is obtained in cases of hemangiosarcoma. Radiographs (X-rays) may show masses and possibly fluid in the abdomen. Radiographs of the chest are needed to detect spread (metastasis) into the lungs. The limbs may be X-rayed because this tumor can spread to the bone, causing pain and lameness. Ultrasound (visualizing deep structures of the body by recording ultrasonic waves) of the heart may be needed, as the tumor also can spread to the heart. Biopsy (removal and examination of tissue from the tumor) is needed for a definite diagnosis.

How is hemangiosarcoma of the spleen or liver treated?

Surgery is the treatment of choice for animals with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen or liver, followed by chemotherapy. Initially, the pet will need to be stabilized. The pet should be hospitalized for medical care. Activity is restricted until after surgery because of the danger of internal bleeding (hemorrhage). Before surgery, the pet will be given intravenous (through a vein) fluids to correct dehydration. If anemia or blood loss is severe, the pet may be given blood transfusions. After stabilization, the pet will have surgery. The veterinarian will remove the tumor, if possible. The tumor removal may involve removal of the spleen (splenectomy) or a portion of the liver. Frequently, the surgery will be followed by chemotherapy. Chemotherapy with anti-tumor medications is given in cycles. Chemotherapeutic drugs can have side effects including vomiting, diarrhea, and heart disorders. Some side effects are potentially serious.

What is the prognosis for animals with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen or liver?

The prognosis (outcome) for animals with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen or liver is guarded to poor. With treatment, cats can survive four-to-five months. Dogs only treated with surgery live a short time (19 to 65 days) while dogs treated by surgery plus chemotherapy live a longer time (mean survival time of up to 271 days).

Except for certain malignant tumors, surgery usually produces a satisfactory result. Maignant tumors are pretty common, however. It is impossible to tell for sure whether a tumor is malignant or a benign growth with out excision and submission of the tumor for analysis by a pathologist.

Important Points in Treatment

The following pertains to pets whose surgery has been completed and are being released to go home:

1. Tissue samples will be sent to a pathologist to determine whether the tumor is malignant.

2. Activity: After surgery, exercise should be limited for ____ days/weeks.

3. Incision: Check the incision daily and report any abnormalities to the doctor.

4. The doctor will advise you if a special diet is required.

5. Your pet will be evaluated for suture removal in ____ days.

Notify the Doctor if Any of the Following Occur:

* There is swelling, redness or drainage at the incision site.

* Your pet is reluctant to eat.

* Your pet vomits or has diarrhea.

* Your pet seems weak or depressed.

* Your pet's general health deteriorates.

The majority of the information in this page is has been taken from VetMedCenter.com. For further information about this useful source of informtion follow the link or look, on the internet, at www.vetmedcenter.com.