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Squamous Cell Carcinoma in a Cat's Mouth

 
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. Updated: February 1, 2021
Squamous Cell Carcinoma in a Cat's Mouth

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Feline squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer in cats that appears relatively frequently, especially in older cats. The lesions caused by this cancer mainly affect the mouth, ears, nose or eyelids.

In this AnimalWised article we're going to explain the causes, symptoms and treatment of squamous cell carcinoma, and further explain oral squamous cell carcinoma in cats. Keep reading to learn more.

You may also be interested in: Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

What is squamous cell carcinoma in cats?

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer in cats associated with the exposure to sunlight. It occurs relatively frequently and is more common in elder cats and white cats who have been exposed to sunlight for most of their life.

Squamous cell carcinoma is specifically a malignant tumor that will destroy the surrounding tissue of where it is present. Sometimes it spreads to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes or the lungs. It affects areas of unpigmented white skin that are covered by very little hair.

This is why the areas that will be most affected will be the ears, nose or eyelids. However, squamous cell carcinoma is also common in a cat's mouth, which we will further explain in a section below.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma in a Cat's Mouth - What is squamous cell carcinoma in cats?

Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma in cats

When a cat suffers from squamous cell carcinoma, we can often observe lesions in the most vulnerable areas of the body in terms of their contact with the sun, such as ears, nose or eyelids.

At first, pink areas without hair appear, with some scabs. Afterwards, the scabs will increase with continued exposure to sunlight. Not all these wounds are synonymous with carcinoma, but some will lead to it.

In addition, when the disease worsens, the appearance of these lesions worsen as well, the skin becomes red, and ulcers with a raised surface appear. The wounds may start to bleed, especially in the ears. To summarise, the symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma in cats are as follows:

  • Pink areas without hair
  • Scabs
  • Reddened skin
  • Ulcers on the skin
  • Wounds that bleed

If you notice any of these symptoms or any other abnormalities, you must take them to the veterinarian immediately. It is important to act quickly to prevent the carcinoma from spreading.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma in a Cat's Mouth - Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma in cats

Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common oral malignancy in cats, occurring usually around the jaw bones or the tongue of the cat. In this section we will be specifically talking about oral squamous cell carcinoma in cats.

Symptoms

If your cat is suffering from oral squamous cell carcinoma, you will notice a mass in your cat's mouth. This is the primary symptom of squamous cell carcinoma in a cat's mouth. Other symptoms include:

  • Drooling
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty eating
  • Bloody discharge from mouth
  • Loose teeth

Have a look at the picture below of an advanced oral squamous cell carcinoma (mouth cancer) in cats. If your cat has even one of these symptoms or an abnormal small red bump in their mouth, you'll need to take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma in a Cat's Mouth - Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats
Image: aesculight.com

Diagnosis

For proper diagnosis your veterinarian will perform different studies on your cat, such as:

  • Tissue biopsy
  • X-rays of jaw and chest
  • Blood tests

With these studies you veterinarian will be able to confirm SCC in your cat and be able to determine the best treatment for your cat's condition. Remember that one must act fast with this illness, before it spreads or brings our cat to their death.

Treatment

Keep in mind that oral squamous cell carcinoma is a very aggressive cancer in cats. Depending on the stage of this illness, you veterinarian will recommend radiation therapy, chemotherapy and/ or surgery to remove the tumour. However, this doesn't guarantee that the tumour will not regrow (if not taken out completely).

Prognosis

Unfortunately, the prognosis of oral SCC is extremely poor as the 1 year survival rate is less than 10% even with radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Pain medication can help the ill cat lessen the pain of this cancer. However, most cats need to be hospitalised as the pain in their mouth stops them from eating or drinking.

Again, this is why it's very important to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you notice any abnormalities. The faster you can get them properly diagnosed and treated, the best are their chances of surviving this cancer.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment in Cats

Treatment can only be prescribed by a veterinarian and will depend on the severity of each case.

Mild Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats

When the injuries are very minor, it may be enough to keep the cat out of the sun, especially during peak hours. Ideally, you would also apply some sun protection for cats, given the difficulty that preventing the cat from sunbathing can pose. Of course, this protection has to be suitable for cats and you must use it as directed by your veterinarian. In addition, you have to watch out that your cat does not clean the lotion off of themselves.

You may also be interested in reading our article about why cats like the sun.

Severe Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats

In the event that the lesions are considerable, it is indicated to take a sample so that its study confirms the carcinoma. This biopsy is done under general anesthesia. After the confirmation, the treatment of choice is surgical excision.

In the operation, the tumor and a good margin of healthy tissue around it are removed to prevent the cancer from reproducing as much as possible. Unfortunately, this treatment usually involves the removal of the ears if the SCC is located at the cat's ears. For caregivers it can have a strong impact but it will not affect the quality of life of the cat at all.

When carcinoma develops on the eyelids or nose, the operation to remove it is much more complex. In these cases, it is usual to complete the treatment with radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Currently, cryosurgery treatments are also being developed.

Is squamous cell carcinoma in cats curable?

The prognosis of this disease will depend a lot on the speed with which the diagnosis is obtained and, consequently, treatment is started. That is why we insist on the importance of going to the veterinarian as soon as we detect the presence of any injury in the mentioned areas, especially if your cat is white, as they are more vulnerable to SCC.

When the detection is early and the carcinoma affects the ears, the prognosis is favorable, since it can be removed successfully, obtaining a complete recovery. In cases where the removal cannot be completely done, the prognosis is considered reserved.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Squamous Cell Carcinoma in a Cat's Mouth, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

Bibliography
  • Gemfe. Squamous cell carcinoma in cats . Avepa.

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