Feline Squamous Cell Carinoma

Feline squamous cell carcinoma(SCC) is a malignant cancer that accounts for 15 percent of tumors in cats. There are two forms of squamous cell carcinoma. Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma which affects the skin and oral squamous cell carcinoma which affects the mouth. Most squamous cell carcinoma tumors do not spread, but they can reoccur at the original site. Yearly exams are necessary for your cat in order to diagnose this cancer early. Treatment varies depending on the severity and stage of the cancer.

Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is associated by prolonged exposure to sunlight. Due to the lack of pigmentation, white cats are 13 times more susceptible of getting cutaneous SCC. This cancer develops on the ears, eyelids, nose or lips. The early stage of cutaneous SCC often progresses into a malignant tumor. A solar injury may create a solitary lesion or multiple lesions. An early sign of this cancer is minor irritation to the affected area. As the tumor continues to progress, it takes on an irregular shape and develops an ulcerated surface.

To diagnose cutaneous SCC a biopsy is preformed to first rule out other possible causes such as ringworm, allergies or mange. Treatment is immediate with surgical removal of the tumor. In more complex cases complete or partial amputation is needed. To prevent your cat from developing cutaneous SCC sunblock should always be applied when your cat is outside, especially in white or hairless cats. You should avoid allowing your cat to sunbath for long period of times. Windows offer some UV protection but not enough.

Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma can also affect the mouth and is usually seen in cats 12 years and older. Carcinogens from cigarette smoke and flea collars have been a causing factor of these oral tumors. Feeding your cat canned food, especially tuna, puts your cat at a higher risk of developing oral SCC. These tumors are usually solitary tumors and found on the gums or under the tongue. Your cat may develop oral SCC and not show any symptoms or show minimal pain until the advanced stage of the cancer. Symptoms include not eating, difficultly breathing and halitosis. Unless these tumors are caught early, treatment in limited. Less than 10 percent of cats survive oral SCC. 

To diagnose this cancer a biopsy is completed. X-rays and a blood panel are necessary to check and see if the jaw bones are being destroyed or organs are being affected. The lungs or lymph nodes are possible areas that SCC can spread too. If your cat has been diagnoses with oral SCC surgery may be an option. The veterinarian may be able to perform a mandibulectomy. This is a partial removal of the lower jaw. This is not an option if the tumor is on the upper jaw. Although not generally responsive, chemotherapy and radiation therapy is an option. Chemotherapy alone shows no effectiveness. This treatment can be expensive and cause a great deal of inflammation.  

If you suspect that your cat has squamous cell carcinoma make an appointment with your veterinarian. Your cat will have a greater chance of survival if diagnosed and treated at an early stage.