Cat Skin Cancer
"Cat skin cancer is the second most common cancer in cats. Skin cancer is more common in middle-aged to older cats (ages 6 – 14 years), although it can occur in younger cats as well. White cats may be more susceptible to skin cancer, because their skin has more exposure to the sun. Skin disease is often referred to as a tumor which is an abnormal growth of cells. It can be on top of the skin or just under the skin. Diagnosis without testing is difficult since a tumor could be malignant (cancer) or benign (not cancer). In all cases early diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent the spread of cancer from the skin to other parts of the boy. Tumors that are not cancerous (benign) may be left alone by a veterinarian."
Types of Cat Skin Cancer
Basal Cell Carcinoma (most common)
A basel cell is teh cell type that is on the top layer of the skin. This type of cancer is usually on the head and just below the skin, back and lower chest. It causes rows of bumps.
This cancer is seen in long hair and Siamese breeds.
This type of skin cancer usually does not spread and is usually not life threatening. A basal cell tumor is the term used for the benign or non cancerous type of tumor and the cancerous form of the disease is called basal cell carcinoma.
Treatment is with surgical removal.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This skin problem occurs in adult cats around body openings and in exposed areas to the sun. 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 and flea collars.
This type of cancer rarely spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body such as lymph nodes and the lungs.
Mast Cell Tumors
These skin tumors are small (less than 1 inch) with the skin cells looking damaged or dead (ulcerated). Areas that are effected include the rear legs, the area that covers a male dogs testicles (scrotum) and abdomen.
Some types of tumors spread quickly to other parts of the body such as the spleen (typical symptom is vomiting). Treatment involves surgery and cortisone.
Siamese cats are particularly susceptible to this form of cancer.
Pictures of Cat Skin Cancer
Cat Skin Ulcer Picture
Cat Skin Tumor Picture
This type of skin disease looks like a black or brown spot on the skin surface. A common mole on the skin surface could turn over time into a melanoma. Like in humans if you see a mole change shape or grow you should seek veterinary care.
A melanoma can be found in any body location. Treatment involves surgical removal.
A uveal melanoma is an eye tumor that occurs in older cats. You will see a change in eye color and redness. This problem usually occurs in one eye. Treatment involves eye removal, chemotherapy and radiation.
Cat Skin Cancer Symptoms
Cat skin cancer symptoms may resemble other skin conditions, and include:
A lump on the skin, especially if it seems to be getting bigger
A sore that doesn’t heal
Bleeding from an ulceration or lesion on the skin
Itchiness of the skin
Redness of the skin
If your cat has any of these symptoms, she needs to go to the vet. Chances are it’s not cancer but some other skin infection, but she still needs treatment.
Cat Skin Cancer Diagnosis
Because skin cancer resembles other skin conditions, it is often not diagnosed right away. Instead, cats are usually treated for skin infections. When that treatment is not effective, they are evaluated for more serious conditions like cancer.
There are a number of diagnostic tests for cat skin cancer:
Blood test - these will be done to evaluate the overall health of your cat.
Aspiration - a needle is used to withdraw cells from the tumor. These cells are examined under a microscope.
Biopsy - some or all of the tumor is removed and then examined.
Chest X-rays- these are done to see if the cancer has spread to the lungs.
Lymph Node Evaluation - lymph nodes are also checked to see if the cancer has spread there. They may be check by aspiration or by biopsy.
Cat Skin Cancer TreatmentSurgery is the most common treatment for cat skin cancer. The surgery removes not only the tumor, but some of the normal skin around the tumor as well, to make sure all of the cancer is removed.
Radiation therapy may also be used. It is most effective following surgery that has reduced tumors to microscopic levels, meaning that they are no longer visible. It usually involves multiple treatments over a period of several weeks. Pets have to be sedated for treatments since they must hold completely still.
Chemotherapy is another option. It is usually recommended when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body or when other treatments are not possible for some reason. Side effects are generally minimal, and may include loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Warning Signs of Cancer in Cats
Professor and Head of Medical Oncology, Animal Cancer Center
Colorado State University
Ft. Collins, CO, USA