Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of oral cancer in cats.
Drooling and lack of appetite usually occur after tumor has been present several months. Oral examination reveals a red, raised swollen area of gum tissue that may or may not be ulcerated.
The true cause is unknown but experts speculate that the meticulous grooming behavior of cats makes them particularly prone. Carcinogens from the environment land on the cat’s coat and enter the mouth when the cat grooms himself. These carcinogens cause the cells lining the mouth to begin to divide uncontrollably. The result may be a tumor. A tumor is defined as the uncontrollable overgrowth of cells. In this case, the squamous cells of the mouth are affected. For clarification, benign tumors, like a mole, are not harmful. Malignant tumors are cancerous. They can be spread to other areas of the body and can be fatal.
A biopsy is the procedure used to determine whether or not a tumor is cancerous. A tiny piece of tissue is removed and microscopically examined to confirm the exact type of tumor. This type of tumor is cancerous but usually remains in the mouth. Occasionally advanced cases that are left untreated, do spread. The best treatment is complete surgical removal, which is an effective cure. A cure may not be possible for advanced cases because the masses grow to a large size, which may prevent complete surgical removal. When removal is incomplete, this type of cancer comes back. Supportive therapy would then include pain management and feeding protocols.
Dental checkups annually or every six months, in middle to older aged cats, allows early detection of several dental problems, including cancer.