Skin Cancer in Cats: Types and Treatments

Several types of skin cancer can affect cats. It is important to distinguish a cancer from a benign neoplasm. Signs that a growth might be a cancer are visible enlargement, ulceration of the skin with bleeding, and a sore that does not heal. Physical appearance alone is not always a reliable indicator. Surgical removal or biopsy is necessary to establish an exact diagnosis. The following are the most common malignant skin tumors in the cat.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

This is the most common type of skin cancer in cats. It tends to show up in older cats, often as a single growth on the head. Basal cell carcinomas occur as small nodular growths beneath the skin, often next to each other, producing solid sheets of bumps. They also tend to occur on the back and upper chest. Basal cell tumors enlarge locally and spread by direct extension. They do not usually metastasize.

Basal cell tumors are most commonly seen in Siamese and domestic longhair cats. Rarely, basal cell tumors become malignant. This occurs in Persians cats primarily, so any lumps on a Persian's head should be checked out right away.

Treatment:Wide surgical removal prevents recurrence.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This neoplasm, also called an epidermoid carcinoma, appears as a cauliflower-like growth or a hard, flat, grayish ulcer that does not heal. Size varies. These cancers tend to occur around body openings and in areas of chronic skin irritation. Hair may be lost because of constant licking.

A peculiar form of squamous cell carcinoma involves the upper and lower lips of cats who suffer from a condition called indolent ulcer. Another type involves the ear tips and nose of cats with white hair in these areas who are exposed to ultraviolet sunlight.

Oral squamous cell carcinomas tend to occur in older cats, often near the base of the tongue. It is suggested that while grooming, cats may lick off carcinogens that then lodge near the tissues of the mouth. Your cat may have loose teeth or go to his food and water bowls but not eat or drink. Drooling and bad mouth odor are common. This cancer has been associated with exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke, possibly a canned food diet, and possibly the use of flea collars.

Treatment:Early detection and treatment of squamous cell carcinoma is important. This neoplasm is capable of spreading to other locations. Treatment may involve a combination of surgery and radiation, with chemotherapy included in some protocols.