Outdoor cats, white cats or those with non-pigmented areas carry a high risk of developing certain types of skin cancers. Typically these are the cancers that are linked with excessive exposure to sunlight.
The first sign of such a condition are a discoloration of the skin, pinkish skin that looks as if it has scales and excessive hair loss. Should this occur, the cat should be protected from sunlight to restrict further development of the disease. If ignored, this leads to further crusting of the skin and ultimately develops into a squamous cell cancer.
Squamous cell cancer is a malignant tumor that normally manifests on ear flaps, the visible cartilage of the external ear, nose and eyelids. Unlike other types of feline cancer, squamous cell cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body. When it does, it can affect the lymph nodes and lungs. The initial signs of this cancer appear in the form of a scab on the head or minor irritations that cause itching. If not checked, the harmless looking lesions can worsen and cause more painful conditions, like redness, ulcerations with hardened edges, and bleeding from the lesions.
These symptoms are typical to other feline diseases like ringworm, mange and allergies. Squamous cell cancer can also appear on other parts of the body like the mouth, the tongue and the upper jaw. Distinctive symptoms of a squamous cell cancer in the mouth include offensive breath, drooling and difficulty in eating.
A biopsy can determine the prevalence of cancer. A blood test, X-Ray and an analysis of a sample tissue will help determine the stage to which the condition has advanced.
An early diagnosis can help to preserve the cosmetic appearance of your cat because squamous cell carcinoma is a fast-growing condition. Surgery is elemental to treatment of this type of cancer. The affected area and some adjoining tissues must be removed to prevent recurrence. If the lesions appear on the ear it may involve amputation of a significant part of the ear. On the nose, it may necessitate a tedious surgical procedure to ensure proper function and to maintain the appearance of the cat.
Laser treatment is another method of treating squamous cell cancer. This treatment, however, is still at an experimental stage. If it proves to be successful, it will be possible to treat squamous cell cancer without any surgical incision. A laser beam is used to destroy cancerous tissue without harming the healthy cells.
Cancer of any type can remain in the body without being detected for a long time. This often gives the cat only a few months to live after diagnosis. Some of the symptoms of squamous cell cancer may even mimic the symptoms of liver cancer in dogs and cats. Pet owners should look for abnormal lumps, lesions or behavioral changes so that they can report it to a specialist for early diagnosis and treatment. Even a harmless looking symptom like an abscess in a tooth cavity can be cancerous and should be investigated.
Cancer in dogs and cats is a potentially fatal condition. Any abnormal symptom should be reported and investigated promptly to arrive at the correct diagnosis. Prompt action can help your pet to live comfortably for a longer period.