Squamous Cell Carsinoma

Posted on June 12, 2015

Sun and ultra violet rays can have damaging effects on all animals, but white and light skinned cats seem to be most vulnerable.  Areas covered with little or no hair and exposed to the sun for prolonged periods, such as the ear tip, are most susceptible and can serve as likely areas for the development of sun induced squamous cell carcinoma.
Generally affecting older cats and in the summer months, squamous cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer evolving from the precursor condition known as actinic dermatitis.  Characterized by small skin lesions in the ear tip accompanied by mild hair loss and scaling of the skin, actinic dermatitis can be identified in its early stages and if treated properly, can prevent the onset of squamous cell carcinoma.  Topical steroid application, sunscreen protections and oral steroids are common modes of treatment.  Should the veterinarian suspect the onset of carcinoma, a biopsy should be performed to determine the need for surgery in order to remove the affected area.
Several different procedures maybe used in the removal of cancerous tissue.  Traditional surgical methods resemble that of ear cropping in dogs and consist of removing about a ¼ inch of the ear.  Laser surgery is another option and while it does provide the surgeon with more accuracy and precision, it does require advanced equipment not available to all veterinarians.  Cryosurgery is another commonly used procedure in which the affected area is frozen and the dead tissue then removed.  While less painful and a bit more cost effective, cryosurgery lacks accuracy and can pose a higher risk in the incomplete removal of the cancerous tissue.
Overall, cats tend to respond well to surgery and the healing process is rather quick and painless.  While the surgical procedures may have some cosmetic drawbacks with regards to your cat’s appearance, they will ensure that the carcinoma does not spread beyond the ear and onto more vital healthy tissues of the head.  Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment of actinic dermatitis and in more extreme cases, squamous cell carcinoma, are key factors in ensuring your pet enjoys a long and happy life.