Teamwork saves cat with cancer from losing an eye

The combined efforts of our soft tissue and ophthalmology teams has succeeded in saving a cat with a progressive sarcoma from losing an eye.

Thirteen-year-old Fleur was referred to us when owners Richard and Jackie Edwards spotted a lump above her nose and between her eyes, and discovered it was cancerous following a small operation at a local vet practice.

Fleur’s sarcoma was growing very close to her left eye and the mass had already started to regrow. Margins of removal had sadly been incomplete following her last surgery, so the new growth, together with the previous scar, had to be resected quickly.

The surgical and ophthalmology team at Eastcott teamed up to assess the situation and devise a plan of action that could save Fleur from living a life with cancer.

Although the mass was relatively small, it was very close to the medial canthus of Fleur’s left eye. The nature of the growth meant she was in danger of losing her eye completely, which both the surgeons and owners naturally wanted to avoid.

Several factors needed to be considered, including the need to resect both the tumour and the previous scar with an adequate margin to maximise chances of long-term cure.

The surgeons also needed to consider the limited mobility of skin in cats adjacent to the resected area and the need for a rotating skin flap to fill the deficit. They had to plan carefully to minimize the chance of the redirected haired skin growing towards the eye and irritating the cornea.

Tim Charlesworth, head of surgery at Eastcott, said: “Fleur’s mass would have been relatively simple to remove with a wide margin and flap reconstruction if removal of the eye was an option. However, we always strive to go above and beyond to preserve normal function whenever possible, so we decided to do our best to preserve the left eye. 

“Together with my talented colleague Ida Gilbert, head of ophthalmology here at Eastcott, the sarcoma was removed with a wide margin of normal tissue around it to ensure complete removal.

“Parts of her eyelid had to be removed together with the tumour but it was then reconstructed by our ophthalmology team taking care to accurately oppose the eyelid margins. Ida managed to accurately reconstruct this resulting in a slightly smaller eye opening but complete function of the eye restored, which is a fantastic result.

“The wound was then closed using a combination of skin flap surgeries including superficial temporal axial pattern flap and a laterally based transposition flap.

“Fleur went on to heal beautifully with no infections or other wound healing complications. Today, Fleur has mild epiphora, but the eye is fully functional with a good blink and an excellent field of view.” 

Owner Richard said: “We were taken through the various options of surgery and, of course, wanted to do what was best for Fleur, especially considering her age. We did not want to put her through unnecessary pain or create a situation where the quality of her life would significantly reduce.

“The team at Eastcott were very kind and friendly explaining all the options available to us. They were confident they would do everything in their power to avoid removing her left eye and so we decided to proceed with the operation.”

Richard said Fleur was doing well and living her best life following the surgery at Eastcott. He said: “We are so pleased to see Fleur is now back to being a regular cat, climbing fences and scurrying after birds.

“We cannot thank the team at Eastcott enough who went to great lengths in making sure Fleur’s trauma was as minimal as possible.

“Not only did they do an exceptional job taking care of her, even at night but they did a great job in keeping us reassured and updated every step of the way.”