Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cat
Squamous cell carcinoma in cat is usually caused by the sun reaching exposed areas of your cat's body. Most cases involve cats who do not have skin pigment (white skin or white color hair) in vulnerable areas such as the ears, nose and eyelids.
Another form of squamous cell carcinoma in cats occurs at the base of the tongue called feline oral squamous cell carcinoma. It is believed it is caused by cancer causing agents that may have been ingested. Suspected causes include cigarette smoke, canned cat food adn flea collars.
Squamous cell carcinoma in cat looks like a cauliflower mark on the skin. First signs are skin redness with a possible waxy, dark crust that is easily removed. If not treated the skin lesions become larger.
Before the tumor develops a condition called solar keratosis is usually seen first. This condition looks like a thickening and discoloration of the skin.
This type of cancer rarely spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body such as lymph nodes and the lungs.
Diagnosis of Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cat
Diagnosis is with fine needle aspiration which is a technique for taking a biopsy of the lymph nodes to check for cancer spread and examination of the skin.
Prevention of Feline Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Prevention of feline squamous cell carcinoma involves limiting sun exposure. Ideas include using window screens or shades or limiting the hours of the day your cat is outside.
There are special sunscreen products that could be applied to your cat. Many sunscreens made for humans are not cat safe. Only use a product recommended by your veterinarian.
Treatment of Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats
Treatment options include medications called retinoids which have been successfully tested in dogs, but with no test results yet in cats. Other more traditional options include radiation and topical chemotherapy. Cryotherapy which involves freezing the skin tumors can be successful for specific types of carcinomas.
Phototherapy, an approach where a nontoxic light-sensitive compound is injected and then exposed selectively to light becomes toxic to targeted cells, can be effective.Unfortunately oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a highly aggressive disease that responds poorly to surgical treatment or to radiation therapy regardless of its location in the mouth. The best approaches for this disease is a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The biggest challenge for cats with this condition has been encouraging them to continue to eat while under treatment.
Gregory K. Ogilvie, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (Internal Medicine, Oncology)
Professor and Head of Medical Oncology, Animal Cancer Center, Colorado State University
Ft. Collins, CO, USA