What is Nose and Sinus Cancer?
Nose and sinus cancers are considered fairly rare in cats and other companion animals. Cats are at a higher risk of developing this type of cancer than dogs. Symptoms may be very similar to a respiratory infection and may not appear severe until cancer has entered a late stage. Any animal exhibiting signs of nose and sinus cancer should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Nose and sinus cancer is a condition in which abnormal cell growth occurs in the nasal cavity, sinus passages, or surrounding tissues. Cancer cells can be malignant and have the potential to spread, or they may be benign. In either case, medical intervention is often necessary to remove and properly treat the tumor. Although most nose and sinus cancers found in cats are malignant, they are less likely to spread than cancer found in other parts of the body. The most likely location for nose and sinus cancer to spread is to the brain or lymph nodes.
Symptoms of Nose and Sinus Cancer in Cats
When cancerous cells or tumors are present in the nasal cavities or sinus passages, the symptoms often mimic those of a respiratory infection. Common early symptoms will include nasal stuffiness, runny nose, and sneezing, which can all be linked to many common and minor illnesses. As the cancer progresses and the cells spread or grow, the severity of the symptoms will increase, making them more obvious. Symptoms can affect the nose, sinuses, eyes, face, and brain.
- Runny nose or nasal discharge
- Watery eyes or ocular discharge
- Sneezing or snorting
- Bad breath
- Bulging eyes
- Vision problems or vision loss
- Nasal or facial swelling or deformity
- Lack of appetite
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Loud breathing
- Mouth breathing or panting
- Exercise intolerance
- Weakness or lethargy
- Difficulty breathing
- Collapse or fainting
- Facial pain and related vocalizations
- Behavior changes
- Circling, difficulty walking, or confusion
There are various types of cancer that can be found in the nose and sinuses. For cats, lymphomas and carcinomas are the most common forms of nasal or sinus cancer. Sinus and nose cancers tend to be malignant. Types of nose and sinus cancer found in cats include:
- Basal cell tumor
- Squamous cell tumor
Causes of Nose and Sinus Cancer in Cats
Like many cancers occurring in cats and other companion animals, the exact cause of nose and sinus cancer is unknown. Cancer occurs due to abnormal cell growth, and nose and sinus cancer is no different. It can be caused by skin, lymphatic, bone, or other types of cells. Risk factors that may increase the likelihood of sinus or nose cancer in cats include:
- Age – more likely to develop in older cats
- Sex – male cats are affected almost twice as often
- Urban dwelling
- Exposure to pollutants
- Exposure to certain chemicals or poisons
- Chronic or frequent infections
- Living in a home with a smoker
- Presence of cancer elsewhere in the body
Diagnosis of Nose and Sinus Cancer in Cats
Early diagnosis has been shown to improve survival rates, but the similarities between the symptoms of nose and sinus cancer and other infections can delay diagnosis. Be prepared to discuss your cat’s full medical history, any symptoms you have observed, and the timeline and frequency of those symptoms. If symptoms have been ongoing, this is often a sign that a more serious issue could be the cause. Your veterinarian will conduct a full physical exam and take samples of blood, urine, and any nasal or ocular discharge. Cultures to search for infections will be completed on these samples in addition to standard laboratory testing.
A urinalysis and blood analysis for complete blood count, biochemistry profile, electrolyte panel, and clotting ability are also standard. If cancer is suspected, diagnostic imaging techniques will generally be used to confirm the diagnosis. X-rays of the chest, head, and face will help identify tumors or suspicious cells. More in-depth imaging may also be used, including CT scans or rhinoscopy, in which the nasal passages or viewed from the inside with a tool called an endoscope. Exploratory surgery or tissue biopsy may also be used to verify the type of cancer and determine if it is malignant or benign.
Treatment of Nose and Sinus Cancer in Cats
The veterinary recommendation for treatment will vary depending on the type, location, size, and spread of the cancer. In some cases, treatment may not be an option, and the prognosis will be poor. It is quite common for nose and sinus cancer to require a multi-pronged treatment approach, as a combination of methods has been shown to be more effective than any single treatment option. Some common therapies for nose and sinus cancer in cats include:
Surgery to remove the tumor may be required. This treatment method is fairly effective on its own but is often combined with other treatments to ensure all the cancerous cells are removed or destroyed. Surgical intervention carries a moderate risk of complications or side effects. Your pet will require hospitalization post-surgery for observation during recovery.
Treatment with radiation is the most common and effective method for treating nose and sinus cancer. Radiation therapy is often combined with surgical treatments to improve the cat’s prognosis. Treatment may last several weeks or months.
This common cancer treatment in humans is being used more and more frequently for animals. Chemotherapy is also used to target and eradicate cancerous cells and prevent further growth. This therapy may also last several weeks or months.
A cancer treatment that uses light therapy has shown some effectiveness in some types of nose and sinus cancer but has been less effective with others, including sarcomas.
Your cat may be prescribed antibiotics if a secondary infection is present. This treatment carries a low risk but requires proper dosing to ensure effectiveness and reduce the risk of side effects.
Recovery of Nose and Sinus Cancer in Cats
The prognosis for nose and sinus cancer is generally poor to fair. Most cancers of the nasal cavity or sinus passages are malignant, and the possibility of the cancer spreading to the brain increases the mortality rate. During and after treatment your pet will require special care. Nutritious food, fresh water, and litter should be kept nearby as your pet may be weak. Avoid making changes to the living environment and take effort to reduce stress. Your pet will need plenty of love and attention until it is feeling better. Be sure to follow all of your veterinarian’s instructions, including those related to dosing of medications and returning for any necessary follow-up visits.
Nose and Sinus Cancer Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Hello,My female tiger cat is about 9 years old.I have had 2 vets examine her. They can not find a thing wrong. Blood work came back all good. She has runny nose that is blood stained. Watery eyes, looked slightly swollen on top of face near the nose but not big. Sneezes forcefully and sprays stained bloody stuff. They have put her on 2 diff antibiotics and added eye drops Tobramycin ophthalmic, and Predisolone. First time it was just antibiotics.Both times she was much better no blood.No weepy eye or nose and was playful again. Leave her off it a while and she is back to doing all of it again. MRI has been suggested but is so far away to go and thousands of dollars I can not afford it. Any suggestions on what it is? Polyp or cancer or what? PLEASE Help!!! Cindy
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I have previously rescue a comm cat. She has this flu coming on and off and a wheezing sound. We gave her medication acc to vets presciptions. 2 months later she was suddenly go blind. We sent her to the vet and she was hospitalised for 5 days. The vet says she have lost her vision which is unknown why is it so. They gave her antibiotics and painkiller to kill fungus. Now tht she is in the boarding and her condition was then stabalised aft given steroid by (a 3rd vet which highly suspect her of nose cancer). Stopped giving steroid on 5th day and she seemed stable. 2 weeks now and i received a mssg saying her nose is blooding. Her wheezing seem louder than before and Callie ate but not as much as before and breathing is slightly more laboured as compared to before when she was more stable. Could you advice me on what to do or is there any medication to stop her pain etc. We have done so much to save her but the amount to sent her dor ct scan and surgery is beyond our ability. Pls advice.
With the nosebleeding, this is consistent with a nasal tumour or polyp (also for dental disorders). Rhinoscopy may be a cheaper alternative to visualise the area that is bleeding and may allow for a biopsy to be taken. As for treatment, if you are unable to get a definitive diagnosis; treatment would be symptomatic making her comfortable as the true underlying cause isn’t known. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Last night we took Mister in to the vet after finding out that he'd been seizing for almost an hour. Before, he'd been showing signs of an upper respiratory infection with pus coming out of his nose and, three days before today, he had stopped eating. My mother had to force feed him. The vet that we took him to thinks that he's in a coma and doesn't know if his chances are good. I guess my question is of this type of cancer could be the cause.
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