Feline Squamous Cell Carinoma

Feline squamous cell carcinoma is a cat skin cancer. Outdoor cats with thin fur or light colored fur are more vulnerable to developing this type of cancer. Geriatric cats are also vulnerable to feline squamous cell carcinoma, especially after the age of eleven.

Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats

Feline squamous cell carcinoma can cause tumors of the tongue, sinuses and nose, ears, throat and esophagus. Symptoms can include:

  • Patchy hair loss on the chest, abdomen and face
  • Sores that don't heal
  • Diarrhea
  • Ulcers
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling of the face, throat or abdomen
  • Bloody respiratory discharge, or bloody discharge from the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Halitosis

Cats usually develop feline squamous cell carcinoma in their geriatric years, at the age of eleven or twelve. Light colored cats and cats who spend a lot of time outside are at higher risk for developing this type of skin cancer.

Diagnosing Squamous Cell Carcinoma

If your cat begins to display symptoms indicative of feline squamous cell carcinoma, your vet will want to perform a biopsy. This procedure allows your vet to examine a small amount of tissue from one of your cat's sores, ulcers, lesions or tumors to determine if it's cancerous.

Treating Feline Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The sooner your cat is diagnosed with feline squamous cell carcinoma, the better his chances of recovery. However, most cats live an average of one and a half to three months after diagnosis.

Vets can't cure this type of cancer, and it's difficult to treat. While the cancer doesn't spread easily through the lymph or blood, squamous cell carcinoma can still metastasize to the lungs and other internal organs, like the stomach.

Surgery is one of the first treatment options. It may not be possible to operate on all tumors. Surgery also carries complications that vary depending on the size and location of the tumor and the cat's state of overall health. Surgical treatment is usually the preferred course of treatment if tumors are small and form where they can easily be removed, such as on the cheeks or ears.

If your cat's tumors are located somewhere where they can't be operated on, your vet may recommend chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Side effects are few and include irritation of the skin and gums. Cats who respond well to chemotherapy and radiation treatment may live for a year or longer after diagnosis. However, only about ten percent of cats who receive chemotherapy or radiation treatment do this well.

Often, chemotherapy and radiation treatment create long term problems even for cats who survive the cancer. These treatments can kill tumors, but the death of the tumor may leave a hole in the mouth, known as an oronasal fistula. The fistula allows food and water to pass from the mouth into the nasal cavity. They can also become infected easily.

Your vet will probably prescribe pain medication. If your cat can't swallow pills due to oral tumors, your vet may recommend pain medication in the form of a liquid, cream or transdermal patch.

During cancer treatment, your cat may lose his appetite. Try to tempt him will new foods and treats. He needs as many calories as he can get.