Basal Cell Carcinoma in Cats

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Basal cell carcinomas are tumors that grow from the epithelial layer of the epidermis. These are malignant tumors and may affect felines and are seen more frequently in cats than in dogs. Senior felines develop more often basal cell carcinomas.

Causes of Basal Cell Carcinomas

The occurrence of basal cell carcinomas has been associated with sun exposure or the presence of toxins in the cat’s environment. However, there are no clear identified causes that could cause the occurrence of these cancerous tumors.

Clinical Signs of Cat Basal Cell Carcinoma

The basal cell carcinomas may be observed on the cat’s skin. The tumor has the appearance of a firm skin growth that has no hair on it. Typically, the skin growth has regular edges. The tumors are most often seen on the face, head, neck or back of the pet. Additional clinical signs of a cat with a malignant tumor may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Licking of the affected area, provided the dog has access to it
  • The tumor may bleed, especially if scratched
  • Swelling of the neighboring lymph nodes

Typically, the cat will have only 1 single tumor and this may double its size in matter of weeks. As the disease advances, the cancer may affect other internal organs of the pet. Depending on the affected areas, the cat will display various other symptoms such as breathing difficulties or swollen abdomen.

Diagnosing Basal Cell Carcinomas

Basal cell carcinomas may be diagnosed following a set of tests including:

  • An examination of the skin and of the tumor
  • A complete blood cell count or CBC
  • Biochemical profile
  • Analysis of the urine
  • X-rays, which can indicate if the disease has spread to other systems
  • A fine needle aspirate, which can help in detecting the type of cells that make up the tumor
  • A biopsy

In some cases, the skin growth will turn out to be a benign tumor, but in this case, it should be monitored to see if it evolves in any way.

Basal Cell Carcinoma Treatment Options for Cats

A timely detection will offer the vet the option of removing the basal cell carcinoma and in some cases, the cancerous will not be recurrent. Once the tumor is removed, the cat will have to be put under chemotherapy, which will stop the development of new cancerous cells. Detected in a more advanced stage, the tumor may be operable, but the surgery will be ineffective, as the cancerous cells have already affected other systems in the cat’s body. In this case, only chemotherapy can improve the cat’s life and improve his chances of survival. When the cancer is in metastasis, radiation therapy may be used to reduce the pet’s pain.

Prognosis for Cats with Basal Cell Carcinoma

The prognosis for a cat with basal cell carcinoma may depend on the treatment used. If the tumor is successfully removed, the cat may experience a full remission and never develop cancer; in other cases, the cancer may reappear within a few months. If the tumor is not operable, the cat’s life expectancy is short and will rarely go over 6 months.


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