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Common Cancer Types

Basal cell tumors The most common skin tumors in cats, these are sometimes mistaken for pimples or allergic reactions. Small growths can become a solid sheet of bumps, frequently dark-colored or fiuid4illed. They are almost always benign, and removing them is usually curative. A rare, malignant form is associated with FeLV- and FIV-positive cats and is very likely to metastasize.

Basal cell tumors are most often found on the head and neck, but can develop on the back and upper chest. Asian breeds and cats older than 7 are generally more prone. Excessive sun exposure may be a factor. Surgery or radiation are effective cures. If the growths are small, alternative therapies may be tried.

Fibrosarcoma Cats can get soft-tissue tumors anywhere, but this malignant form develops just under the skin at vaccination sites, The more often a cat is injected in one spot, the greater his risk of developing a growth, The time between the vaccination and tumor development is usually three months to three years. A firm, irregular mass Often grows quickly and extends deep into adjoining tissue, making full removal difficult. The surface of the skin may be ulcerated.

Vaccine related fibrosarcoma usually arises on the shoulders or hind legs. It's prevalent in cats that are under 5 years old who are FeLV-positive. FeLV-positive status, plus whether the tumor can be removed with the wide margins, greatly affects the prognosis. Agressive surgery is supplemented with radiation or chemotherapy. In later stages, the cancer metastatizes.

Mast Cell Tumors About 90 percent of mast cell tumors in cats are benign but the rest are deadly. It's the second most common form of feline skin tumor. Usually appearing as a waxy wart or small whit to red pimples, mast cell tumors can be mistaken for a severe flea allergy. The skin's surface may be ulcerated.
Cats of any age are susceptible, particularly Siamese. Mast tumors usually develop on the head and neck-especially the ear tips and area between the ears and eyes--but also are found on the hind legs and lower abdomen. Surgery or radiation is curative. However, when mast cells are cancerous, they can spread to distant organs. In these cases, chemotherapy is advised.

Melanomas This cancer of the pigment-producing skin cells is most common in black dogs. Nonetheless, any brown or black, odd-shaped growth on a cat's skin Or mouth should be checked. Melanomas grow fast, often from existing moles or pigment spots. Dark basal cell tumors can be mistaken for melanomas, so a biopsy is advised. Surgery and adjunct therapies are required.

Squamous cell carcinoma Caused by over-exposure to ultraviolet light, this is the most common skin cancer in cats and the most likely to reoccur. It can look like a cauliflower growth (hard, fat and grayish) or appear as red, ulcerated sores often with crusty, dark scabs. It's usually found on the head especially exposed spots Ilk{ the nose, ear tips, eyelids and lips--but may develop on multiple toenails, the neck, groin, shoulders or forelimbs. Owners may mistake it for a slow healing wound.

All white or partially white cats are the most susceptible. Older cats and female cats appear to be more prone, as do FeLV or FIV positive cats. Other contributing factors include sunburn and chronic skin irritation.

Squamas cell cancer requires aggressive surgery, including amputation. It often reoccurs, even in different locations. Because it grows slowly, the smaller the tumor, the better the prognosis. Alternatives to surgery are used if the cancer is in a difficult place, like te eyelids. Wide surgical removal is sometimes followed by radiation. On rare occasions, the cancer spreads to the lungs and lymph nodes; then chemotherapy is advised.

Taken from Cats Magazine, July 1998 issue

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