What is Nose Pad Cancer?
Squamous cell carcinoma is highly curable if it is diagnosed and treated early. Cat owners should periodically examine their pet’s faces for the presence of sores or scabs and seek prompt veterinary treatment for unusual symptoms.
The most common form of cancer found on the nose in cats is squamous cell carcinoma. The condition presents as small sores with scabs that tend to be flat and irregularly shaped. The lesions may occur in one localized spot or several areas, and the surrounding area may be hairless and pink in color. Initially, the marks often appear to be harmless and may disappear for a time. However, if left untreated, the lesions will return and will likely eventually erupt and leak fluid. Swelling and tissue damage may impact the surrounding area. It is possible that the cancer may metastasize to other parts of the body and prove to be fatal.
Symptoms of Nose Pad Cancer in Cats
The primary symptom of nose pad cancer is the presence of scab-like lesions. Other symptoms may include:
- Breathing through the mouth
- Sneezing or reverse sneezing
- Discharge from nose or eyes
- Swelling and inflammation in the affected area
- Behavioral changes
Causes of Nose Pad Cancer in Cats
The primary cause of squamous cell carcinoma is excessive exposure to UV rays. This makes hairless and lightly-pigmented cats more susceptible to the condition. Outdoor cats and indoor cats that spend a great deal of their time in sunlit areas may also be more likely to develop nose pad cancer. Other possible causes of the condition include:
- Physical trauma
- Serious burn
- Certain types of virus
- Exposure to inhaled irritants (including indoor use of coal, cigarettes, and air fresheners)
Diagnosis of Nose Pad Cancer in Cats
The treating veterinarian should begin by discussing details regarding the onset and severity of symptoms and reviewing the cat’s medical records. A standard set of lab tests will be ordered including complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, and urinalysis to evaluate the cat’s overall health. In most cases, test results are expected to be normal. A thorough physical examination will be performed as the vet attempts to rule out other possible causes such as bacterial infection, viral infection, or dental disease.
A definitive diagnosis is made by removing fluid and tissue samples under general anesthesia and sending them to a lab for a biopsy. If a tumor is present, MRI or CT scans may be ordered to evaluate the depth of the tumor and determine whether it has spread. This information will aid in developing a treatment plan.
Treatment of Nose Pad Cancer in Cats
It is more likely that favorable treatment options will be available when the condition has been detected early. In many cases, the vet will recommend a consultation with a veterinary oncologist and together they will determine a course of action that includes several types of treatment.
The treating veterinarian may recommend surgical removal of the tumor. A border of healthy tissue, or “margin” will also be removed to ensure that the entire tumor has been extracted. This is most likely to be effective in the early stages of the disease.
Radiation therapy is most effective when there are multiple lesions that have not spread to the deeper layers of the cat’s skin. It may also be recommended when lesions have already progressed beyond the ability to be surgically treated. In this case, three or more weeks of aggressive radiation may be needed to attempt to control further spread of the disease.
This procedure destroys cancer cells by freezing them under extremely low temperatures. Cryotherapy has been performed with positive results. When the cat is an appropriate candidate it is the treatment method that many veterinarians prefer.
In some cases, patients may benefit from a direct injection of chemotherapeutic substances into the affected area. This is a controversial treatment option as its effectiveness has not been proven in treating squamous cell carcinoma. Chemotherapy drugs may be toxic to humans, so it is important to closely follow instructions regarding administration.
Recovery of Nose Pad Cancer in Cats
When detected early, squamous cell carcinoma tumors tend to be small and superficial. This leads to an overall positive prognosis. Following treatment, pain medication is likely to be needed and cats should be provided with a quiet, peaceful place to rest and recover. Food and water dishes and litter boxes should be kept in close proximity to reduce the chance of overexertion. To ensure proper recovery, the cat should be fed a balanced, nutritional diet so that it retains a healthy body weight. Steps should be taken to reduce the cat’s exposure to sunlight, including limiting time spent outside during the daytime.