Feline Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Feline squamous cell carcinoma is a malignant form of skin cancer. It’s the most common cancer in older cats, and affects the feet, skin, mouth, eyes and head. Vital organs such as the lungs and bladder may also get affected.

Risk Factors

Prolonged exposure to sunlight in un-pigmented or lightly pigmented skin is thought to be one of the factors responsible for the occurrence of this type of cancer. Thus, outdoor-white cats are at greater risk to this affliction. Cats that are pigmented develop carcinomas on un-pigmented areas of their bodies. Other contributing factors are cigarette smoke, canned food and the use of flea collars. Cats living in non-smoking homes are relatively safe from squamous cell carcinomas. The risk increases four-fold if pet owners are smokers. Regular feeding of canned foods such as tuna fish also increases the risk of cats developing squamous cell cancer.

Symptoms of Feline Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • A small, shallow sore on the face with a crust over the top that doesn’t heal
  • A deep, raw skin sore
  • A raised, red area on the skin
  • Irritation
  • Hair loss
  • A cauliflower shaped growth on the skin
  • A sore on the foot, accompanied by a limp
  • A sore in the nose accompanied by nasal discharge and sneezing
  • Defects appear on the nose, ear tips and eyelids and lead to deformation of the face

Diagnosis for Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Pet owners should seek prompt vet care if the cat exhibits any of the symptoms. The symptoms may also vary according to the severity of carcinoma involved. Since these symptoms are similar to other skin ailments, it’s crucial that the diagnosis be accurate. The vet will recommend cytology studies to analyze tumor cells. A biopsy of part of the tumor may be more helpful in this regard. Other diagnostic tests conducted include blood tests, urine tests, X-rays of the chest and abdomen area and an examination of the lymph nodes. These tests help determine the stage of the cancer present.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment for Cats

Surgery is the treatment of choice. However, due to the location or size of the tumor it might not always be possible to completely remove the tumor. In such instances, alternative treatments are needed to fight the cancer.

Other Treatment Options

  • Radiation or the use of high energy X-rays to kill cancer cells that could not be removed by surgery.
  • Plesiotherapy which is a superficial form of radiation that’s applied topically to the cancerous sites.
  • Chemotherapy which involves the use of chemicals to kill cancer cells.
  • Cryotherapy or the application of extreme cold to the affected area to kill tumor cells.

Photodynamic Therapy

This therapy is relatively new and involves the application of medication to photosensitize cancer cells and cause their death. It’s effective and safe for the treatment of early stage squamous cell nasal and skin cancers. However, this therapy requires the use of specialized equipment which might not always be easily available.

There is a better chance of recovery if the tumor is detected early and can be completely removed by surgery. Prognosis will also be affected by how aggressive the tumor is and if it includes vital organs.