Skin Cancer in Cats: Types and Treatments
Several types of skin cancer can affect cats. It is important to distinguish a cancer from a benign neoplasm.
Signs that a growth might be a cancer are visible enlargement, ulceration of
the skin with bleeding, and a sore that does not heal. Physical appearance
alone is not always a reliable indicator. Surgical removal or biopsy is
necessary to establish an exact diagnosis. The following are the most common
malignant skin tumors in the cat.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common type of skin cancer in cats. It tends to show up in
older cats, often as a single growth on the head. Basal cell carcinomas occur
as small nodular growths beneath the skin, often next to each other, producing
solid sheets of bumps. They also tend to occur
on the back and upper chest. Basal cell tumors enlarge locally and spread by
direct extension. They do not usually metastasize.
Basal cell tumors are most commonly seen in Siamese and domestic longhair
cats. Rarely, basal cell tumors become malignant. This occurs in Persians cats
primarily, so any lumps on a Persian’s head should be checked out right
Treatment:Wide surgical removal prevents recurrence.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This neoplasm, also called an epidermoid carcinoma, appears as a
cauliflower-like growth or a hard, flat, grayish ulcer that does not heal. Size
varies. These cancers tend to occur around body openings and in areas of
chronic skin irritation. Hair may be lost because of constant licking.
A peculiar form of squamous cell carcinoma involves the upper and lower lips
of cats who suffer from a condition called indolent ulcer. Another type
involves the ear tips and nose of cats with white hair in these areas who are
exposed to ultraviolet sunlight.
Oral squamous cell carcinomas tend to occur in older cats, often near the
base of the tongue. It is suggested that while grooming, cats may lick off
carcinogens that then lodge near the tissues of the mouth. Your cat may have
loose teeth or go to his food and water bowls but not eat or drink. Drooling
and bad mouth odor are common. This cancer has been associated with exposure to
secondhand cigarette smoke, possibly a canned food diet, and possibly the use
of flea collars.
Treatment:Early detection and treatment of squamous cell carcinoma is
important. This neoplasm is capable of spreading to other locations. Treatment
may involve a combination of surgery and radiation, with chemotherapy included
in some protocols.