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Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

What is squamous cell carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a common malignant tumour of the skin. Most often caused by excessive exposure to sunlight it is seen most often in white cats or cats with white patches.

Tumours can appear anywhere on the body although areas most commonly affected are the ears, nose, mouth and eyelids. Older outdoor cats are more commonly affected than younger ones.

SCC's are slow to metastasis (spread) and remain confined to the skin for some time. If untreated, SCC can spread to regional lymph nodes and distant metastasis, most often the lungs.

What are the symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma in cats?

  • Lesions or sores which are slow to heal.
  • A red spot on the skin.
  • Crusty like lesion.
  • Hair loss in the affected area.

If you see any lumps, bumps, scabs, crusty areas etc., on your cat, it is strongly urged to seek veterinary attention. Some symptoms of SCC can mimic other diseases such as ringworm, so it is important that you seek a proper diagnosis so the appropriate treatments (if any) can be given.

How is squamous cell carcinoma in cats diagnosed?

A complete medical history and physical examination will be performed by your veterinarian including a medical history from you such as how long you have noticed the lump, other symptoms your cat may be displaying.

A presumptive diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma may possibly be made by examining the cat. However, a biopsy will be required to confirm this diagnosis.

Your veterinarian will want to perform a chest x-ray to determine if the tumour has spread.

A complete blood count and biochemical profile will also be required.

How is squamous cell carcinoma in cats treated?

  • Surgery to remove the cancerous cells (partial pinnectomy).
  • Cryosurgery to remove the cancerous cells.
  • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
  • Pain medication post operatively may be required.

Prevention of squamous cell carcinoma:

  • Limiting your cat's exposure to the sun by confining him/her indoors during the hours of 10.00am - 4.00pm.
  • Application of a waterproof sun block. Speak to  your veterinarian about which brands are safe to use on cats.
  • Early detection is important, so your veterinarian may wish to take a biopsy to determine if  your cat has sunburn or squamous cell carcinoma.
  • If you believe your cat has been sunburned seek veterinary attention immediately. Treatment depends on the severity of the burn.

Also see:

Cancer in cats   Solar dermatitis (sunburn) in cats