Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats

Oral squamous cell carcinoma is one of the most prevalent oral cancers found in cats. This type of cancer spreads quickly throughout the body, and can occur in cats of all ages. Read on to learn more about diagnosing and treating oral squamous cell carcinoma in cats.

Causes of Feline Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Most types of squamous cell carcinoma occur as the result of excessive exposure to UV rays. Oral squamous cell carcinoma occurs when your cat is exposed to toxins in the environment. Toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, flea collars and even canned cat food can contribute to oral squamous cell carcinoma in cats.

Cats can develop oral squamous cell carcinoma at any age, though it's found most often in cats 10 to 13 years of age.

Symptoms of Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats

Cats with oral squamous cell carcinoma may experience facial swelling as the tumor grows; often, the tumor will be visible inside the mouth. Your cat's mouth may bleed and he may have trouble swallowing. His teeth could become loose. He might drool a lot, experience a decrease in appetite, and develop halitosis.

Diagnosing and Treating Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats

Your vet will need to take a biopsy sample of the oral tumor for examination in a lab. He may also need to do blood and urine tests, and perform a physical exam, to evaluate your cat's overall state of health. Your vet may need to take a biopsy of your cat's lymph node tissue to determine whether or not the cancer has already spread to the lymph nodes. Once oral squamous cell carcinoma spreads to the lymph nodes, it becomes much harder to treat.

Treatment for this type of cancer becomes more difficult once it starts to spread, and it can spread quickly. Tumors often spread from the skin down into the jawbone. If this happens, your cat will need to have part of his jaw removed. In some extreme cases, removal of the entire lower jaw is required. If you catch the cancer early, before it spreads, and your vet is able to remove the entire tumor, then the prognosis will be significantly better than in a case where the cancer has already spread.

While chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be used to treat this type of cancer, they are generally not very effective. Even with surgery and radiation or chemotherapy, there is a very good chance that your cat's cancer will come back. Most cats diagnosed with this type of cancer survive for only weeks or months after being diagnosed. Due to the nature of the condition, eating, drinking and breathing can be very hard for cats with oral squamous cell carcinoma; quality of life can decline rapidly with this illness.

Because this cancer progresses so rapidly and is so difficult to treat, only about 10% of cats diagnosed with it are still alive one year after diagnosis.