Vaccine Induced Sarcoma
One Cat's Story
Hi. My name is little Ang and I'm going to tell you my life story and about how I acquired vaccine induced sarcoma as well as some facts about the disease.
I first got acquainted with my mom about 5 and a half years ago, in the summer of 2003. I am 6 years old right now. I was a stray and I was starving and I had just found a piece of stale bread in the trash when my future mom came out to do laundry and scared me.
I started crying because I was afraid to go back to retrieve the bread because I didn't know my future mom at all back then. A few minutes later she came out with a can of food (much better than the bread) and shortly after that we became great friends.
She brought me in the house where I have lived since then.
A few months later there was a little stray kitten outside and my mom brought her in to live with us as well. I am a cat that really likes other cats and so we became great friends. Here is a picture of the two of us when my new "sister" was just a kitten.
Then about a year after that my mom found another stray cat. She brought him in the house to live with us. Of course she had him tested for feline leukemia, but then 8 weeks later when he was retested he was positive for it and so me and Elizabeth had to get the feline leukemia vaccine so that the new cat "Crispin" could live with us. See his picture below.
Crispin lived about 2 happy years with us before the feline leukemia killed him. It is a terrible disease.
After Crispin died my mom had me and Elizabeth retested for feline leukemia and luckily neither one of us caught it from him - most likely because we were vaccinated against it before we were exposed to him. Prior to our vaccination against it my mom kept him in a separate room so we wouldn't be exposed.
Although it has been some time since I received the feline leukemia vaccine I am having some serious problems from it, however.
My mom took me to the vet this past weekend and it turns out that I probably have a vaccine induced sarcoma. The name is very descriptive of the disease - it is a sarcoma or tumor that occurs at the site where a vaccine was previously given.
Unfortunately, vaccine induced sarcomas are rather aggressive, fast growing tumors, that are known to metastasize (spread elsewhere in the body) easily.
The symptoms of these are a lump or swelling that occurs at the site of a vaccine long after the vaccine has been given. Very often a swelling or lump may occur shortly after a vaccine (within a few weeks), but these typically go away. On the other hand, vaccine induced sarcomas usually appear within one to three years after the vaccine has been given. It has been about two years since I had my last feline leukemia vaccine and the lump/tumor just recently appeared in the exact spot where I had my last feline leukemia vaccine.
Of course my mom was horrified when she found it. She had just gotten home from work and was petting me and she found it. That is why she took me to the vet.
You may be wondering what my treatment options are. Well, this week I am going in to the vet's office to have the tumor surgically removed. We are all hoping that the vet will be able to get it all, but we won't know until after the surgery.
Also, even though we don't tell the other cats this, I am my mom's very favorite cat. I've got to make it because my mom will be very sad if I don't.
As I progress through my treatment I'll be writing updates on what kinds of treatments I'm receiving and how I'm making out.
And as promised, here are some facts about vaccine induced sarcomas:
Facts About Vaccine Induced Sarcomas
- Vaccine Induced Sarcomas are relatively rare - only about 1 in 10,000 vaccinated cats.
- Seems to be specific to cats.
- Vaccines that use killed virus particles, such as the rabies and feline leukemia vaccine, are more likely to cause sarcomas than distemper vaccines, which uses modified live virus.
- However, the 1 year purevax rabies vaccine uses modified live virus and the 3 year rabies vaccine uses killed virus and so the risk of a vaccine induced sarcoma is greater if you get your cat the 3 year vaccine.
- The development of sarcomas are thought to be due to other additives that are used along with the killed vaccines that help to enhance the immune response and not the viruses themselves.
- Because of the problems associated with vaccine induced sarcomas, the Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcoma Task Force recommendeds that the feline leukemia vaccine be given as low as possible in the rear left leg.
- The task force recommends that the rabies vaccine be given as low as possible in the rear right leg. The reason for giving the vaccines in the lower legs is because it makes it easier to remove the tumor if one should arise. Unfortunately, my feline leukemia vaccine was given on the left side of my body (and not my leg), which may make removal difficult.
- Revaccinating a cat in the same location seems to increase the chances of a vaccine induced sarcoma.
- Male and female cats are equally affected by vaccine induced sarcomas.
- The prognosis isn't great, even with surgical removal. Usually a wide surgical incision is used to try to remove all of the tumor. Sometimes radiation therapy and chemotherapy is used in addition to the surgery.
I'm of course just starting out with the surgical removal of the sarcoma. Then a portion of the tumor will be sent to a lab for biopsy to determine the nature of the tumor (and if it is in fact a vaccine induced sarcoma).
Depending on how things go, I may need additional treatment. I'll keep you updated on how I'm doing. Wish me luck and please pray for me if you wish to.
My Vaccine Induced Sarcoma Treatment Update
Well, I went in and had my surgery to get the vaccine induced sarcoma removed. I now have a six inch incision (to remove less than a 1 inch tumor). This is because these tumors are so aggressive and spread so easily that in order to get it all a very wide area must be removed.
I'm back home now and resting in the upstairs bedroom away from the other cats until I recover for a few days. I'm on pain medication too - given every 12 hours.
In about 10-14 days I have to go back to the vet to get my stitches removed. At that time my mom and I will find out the results of the biopsy. There is really no question as to whether or not the tumor is cancerous (it is), but we will find out if there are clean margins around the tumor. If there is then this probably means that I'll be okay and that the cancer was removed and hasn't spread. However, if there are not clear margins then the prognosis is poor.
My surgery cost about $600, but my mom says it is well worth it if helps me to live a long and happy life.
Also, the results of my biopsy are in. According to the biopsy results, the surgery removed all of the tumor. However,on the sides there was only a 1 mm area that was cancer free and so my prognosis is guarded. I got my stitches out today (April 18, 2009) and am healing up at least. I have to go in to the vet for checkups once a month so that the vet can palpate the area to make sure the tumor isn't coming back.
Hopefully it won't because the greatest chance of survival with a vaccine induced sarcoma occurs if the tumor is able to be completely removed on the first surgery. For some reason successive surgeries are not as successful in controlling or eliminating the disease as the first surgery.
Post Surgical Update
It's been about 3 months since I had the surgery and I'm still doing fine. However, I do have a small, pea-sized lump, but my vet isn't sure whether it is just scar tissue or if it is another tumor. My mom is monitoring it closely for changes in the size.
Update August 2009
Well, it seems the tumor has come back and so I have to have surgery again on August 26th, 2009. The first cancer surgery was on April 7th, 2009. Hopefully this surgery won't be as bad as the last time and hopefully this will be the end of the vaccine induced sarcoma. I'll keep you updated.
I had my surgery on August 26th and about two weeks later the biopsy came back. Unfortunately, it showed that the cancer had spread and the vet wasn't able to get it all. My mom is very upset.
Update December 2009
It is December 2009 and so far I'm still feeling fine. I have a lot of scar tissue along my surgical incision line and so hopefully the little lumps my mom says she feels along there are just scar tissue and not something worse, like the vaccine sarcoma coming back.
In any case, I wanted to report that I'm still doing well and to wish you all Happy Holidays!
Update June, 2010
My vaccine induced sarcoma came back and my mom had the vet do another surgery on June, 23, 2010. Because my mom is afraid this cancer will keep coming back she is trying a new treatment for me suggested by my veterinarian. Read about my vaccine induced sarcoma and neoplasene treatments.