Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats

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Tess Thompson

Skin cancer is a wide range of cancer that includes tumors and uncontrolled growth of cells in the skin, skin glands, supportive fat, connective tissue and hair follicles. In cats, squamous cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. As the primary cause is likely due to an overexposure to the sun, outdoor cats are at a higher risk of developing it.

Initially, the cancer starts with a discoloration of the white skin or white patches on the body of cats. The non-pigmented areas turn pink, and later there is a formation of scales that results in hair loss. The commonly affected sites are the nose and ears. These tumors do not generally metastasize, but local lymph nodes may sometimes be affected.

Like most cat cancers that occur in the skin, squamous cell carcinoma also appears as a lump under the skin or as lesions that do not respond to treatment. While early treatment can be very successful, detection can be pretty difficult at times. The appearance of skin lesions are often confused with feline diseases like allergies, ringworm and mange.

Oral squamous cell carcinoma arises from the cells lining the mouth or the throat. It is normally seen on the tongue and is prone to spread to the lymph nodes, and may also invade the local bone.

Surgical excision and radiation therapy are the preferred choice of treatment, as chemotherapy usually does not prove to be effective in treating squamous cell carcinomas. Local radiation, involving a probe that is touched on the skin, can effectively treat tumors affecting the superficial layer of the skin. In some instances cryosurgery, the application of extreme cold (usually liquid nitrogen) may effectively destroy unwanted tissue. Oral carcinomas of this type are difficult to treat, but may potentially respond to radiation or surgery.

Having a pet at home accompanies certain responsibilities on the part of pet owners. Apparently, harmless symptoms may sometimes be the harbinger of serious things like feline cancer and should be taken seriously. Just as a skin lesion that does not heal may indicate skin cancer, swollen lymph nodes may be one of the initial signs of lymphoma in cats.

Whereas small squamous cell tumors may be relatively easy to treat, some of the malignant neoplastic diseases may spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system or the blood stream and prove to be fatal.

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