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What is Tongue Cancer?

Oral squamous cell carcinoma is one of the more common forms of cancer in cats. Around 10 percent of all tumors in cats occur in the mouth. While oral cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth, the tongue is a common area of occurrence. Though tongue cancer in cats does not tend to metastasize, or spread, to other areas of your cat’s body, it is an aggressive form of cancer that can grow rapidly in size. As the rapidly growing tumor damages more of your cat’s oral tissue, the available options for treatment will decrease, and prognosis for full recovery will lessen. It is therefore important that oral cancer be identified and diagnosed quickly so that appropriate treatment can begin as soon as possible.

Tongue Cancer Average Cost

From 453 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$10,000

Symptoms of Tongue Cancer in Cats

The symptoms of tongue cancer in your cat will begin as minor and quickly escalate as the tumor grows. What is a minor inconvenience to your cat one week may quickly become a hindrance for eating the next, given the small size of the oral cavity. Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty eating or drinking
  • Bad breath
  • White growths on tongue
  • Change in appearance or shape of tongue
  • Tongue lolling out of mouth
  • Ulcers or blood on tongue
  • Indication of pain such as scratching or pawing at mouth
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Causes of Tongue Cancer in Cats

Like most cancers, the exact cause of tongue cancer in cats is unknown. The most common type of tongue cancer is a type called squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer affects the epithelial, or skin, cells of the tongue. Some studies have found a significantly higher incidence of tongue cancer in cats that live in households of smokers. Environmental causes, such as exposure to tobacco smoke, are known causes of cancer in general.

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Diagnosis of Tongue Cancer in Cats

Diagnosis of tongue cancer in your vat will begin with a thorough physical exam. At your initial appointment with your veterinarian you should bring a complete medical history as well as a timeline of any symptoms you’ve noticed. An approximate timeframe of worsening of symptoms compared with approximate onset of the condition can be helpful in determining how aggressive the cancer is in your cat. 

During the exam your vet will pay especial attention to the area under the tongue of your cat. He or she will also examine the jaw area to see if there is uneven size or shape, which could indicate the tongue cancer has spread to the bones of the jaw area. Your veterinarian will also take x-rays to help determine whether there has been any damage to the bony areas of the jaw and head. Finally, your vet will take a biopsy of any tumor. 

A biopsy is the definitive tool used to diagnose the presence of cancer. Depending on the location of the tumor and the temperament of your cat, a vet may be able to biopsy the tongue tumor with a small needle that captures a small number of cells. In other cases, your cat will need to undergo anesthesia in order for the veterinarian to gain access to the area. The biopsy will then be examined under a microscope either in your veterinarian’s office or an offsite laboratory which will identify the presence of any cancer cells.

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Treatment of Tongue Cancer in Cats

Treatment of tongue cancer in your cat will depend on the severity and location of the cancer tumor and the age of your cat. There are two main methods of treatment for tongue cancer in cats.

Surgical Removal of Tumor

If the cancer has been caught early on and has not grown too large or spread throughout the mouth, your vet may be able to remove the cancer. This will involve your cat being placed under anesthesia and oral surgery being performed. The vet will work to remove as much of the tumor as possible in order to prevent the tongue cancer from returning. This may involve removing a significant portion of your cat’s tongue. 

Chemotherapy and Radiation

In some cases, surgery may not be possible due to numerous factors, including tumor size and location. In these cases, your veterinarian may prescribe chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy involves administering powerful cancer-attacking drugs to your cat. Chemotherapy has many side effects and may weaken your cat’s immune system. Decreased appetite and general lethargy are other side effects of chemotherapy. Certain drugs may reduce the negative effects of chemotherapy.

Radiation is generally not a recommended treatment for tongue cancer in cats given the proximity of the tumor to the brain, eyes and other important organs that are severely sensitive to radiation.

Palliative Care

In some cases, treatment options may be reduced to palliative care, in which your cat is given medications that keep them pain free and reduce symptoms to improve their quality of life.

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Recovery of Tongue Cancer in Cats

Prognosis for recovery from tongue cancer in cats is dependent on how soon the condition is diagnosed. If caught early and successful surgical removal of the tumor occurs, a cat’s quality and length of life may be significantly improved. In many cases, treatment will only prolong the life of the cat by months. As a whole, prognosis is generally not good for advanced cases due to the rapid growth and invasive nature of this type of cancer.

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Tongue Cancer Average Cost

From 453 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$10,000

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Tongue Cancer Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Sophie

dog-breed-icon

tabby siamese mix

dog-age-icon

14 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Bad Breath

I took our Sophie in for routine teeth cleaning, as we do yearly. She also gets her Wellness Exams on a regular basis. I was absolutely stunned when the office called to say, the teeth cleaning was done, Snickers was slowly recovering; however, they found a tumor underneath Sophie's tongue. The diagnosis was probably cancer. Even before the biopsy confirmed it. The veterinarian told us that due to the fact that it had spread towards the back of the mouth and her age, he would not recommend treatment. I never noticed anything other than a little bad breath a few weeks prior but had already scheduled the teeth cleaning so mistakenly and thought that was the problem. I am still in complete shock and grief at the news!! We are trying to keep her comfortable with pain patches. A small area was shaved behind her head, but the patches keep coming off even with rubbing with alcohol first. She will only eat a brothy soft food, but has stopped drinking water and started to drool. Besides the shock of bringing in Sophie for routine teeth cleaning, is the fear as mentioned earlier if it is contagious to Snickers our other cat? if she drools a bit into her food or some saliva is secreted will that spread to Snickers? Sophie is approximately 14-1/2 another reason the vetenarian did not recoomend treatmnet. But now, also concerned about Snickers and the drooling being contagious to her? I am just completely heartbroken and Sophie and I have had a special bond. We are seeing her veternarian again tomorrown morning to discuss what is best for Sophie as do not want to be selfish because I am not ready to let her go. Also, can these tumors not be detected during Wellness Checks or they pop up that quickly?

Sept. 2, 2018

Sophie's Owner

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Gato

dog-breed-icon

Mix

dog-age-icon

5 Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Bleeding Tonuge, Refusal To Eat

How much does the surgery cost? She just hit diagnosed today and the tomur is fairly large, how much does the surgery cost? We know it will be expensive and are starting a go-fund-me.

Aug. 24, 2018

Gato's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

It depends on the size and the how much of the tongue needs to be removed; also factors including your location (country? city?) and your Veterinarian will also have a bearing on the cost. For an accurate ballpark, you should ask the Veterinarian which made the diagnosis for a quotation so you have a good ballpark for your gofundme page. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 25, 2018

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Cheetah

dog-breed-icon

tabby

dog-age-icon

16 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Drooling
Some Bleeding

My cat Cheetah is 16 yes old. He was having trouble eating and we took him to the vet and they found a tumor under his tongue. Location, size, age, and having up and down sugar issues makes it impossible for surgery. We are managing with pain medication but I am afraid the time is coming near. He hasnt eaten solid food for a week and canned food for 5 days. He is drinking water and milk but losing weight rapidly. He has started drooling after drinking. He still wants to be around us, sleeps by me every night. He hangs out with our dog and kids. I just am struggling with making the decision to euthanize him since he acts fine, even though he is extremely skinny but I do not want him to suffer. How do I know the time is right? I dont want to end his life sooner than it has to be. How do I know if he is in pain?

Aug. 14, 2018

Cheetah's Owner


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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

It sounds like the mass is causing pain whilst eating and drinking, if Cheetah cannot eat and has difficulty drinking the time will be limited; I cannot tell you the best time to think about the unthinkable as you need to be comfortable with the decision. However, I would recommend looking at quality of life and seeing how well Cheetah is doing compared with a month or two ago; also discuss with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 15, 2018

I am writing to see how little Cheetah is doing? I feel your heartbreak as this diagnosis was totally unexpected for Sophie after routine dental cleaning and she was only suddenly given two weeks to a month. She is still eating and drinking a bit but I can tell it is hard for her as she tips her head to one side and hear her as it is hard for to chew. Also is drooling excessively. I made an appt for her tomorrow morning as even though she is eating I feel she is suffering. Am I wrong?

Sept. 10, 2018

Yvonne G.

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Bambina

dog-breed-icon

Exotic Persian

dog-age-icon

12 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Halitosis

Just find out that sadly my 12y cat Bambina has squamous cell carcinoma and a tumor underneath her tongue that cannot be removed now due to location and size. My vet suggested chemotherapy to see if the tumor decreases and we can perform surgery, but they said she would have much of her tongue - if not all of it - removed. She is Already well addapted to an esophaegic tube, has no methastasis and good general condition. So can a cat live without the tongue?

July 26, 2018

Bambina's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

I am sorry that that is happening to Bambina. While I think that the surgery is possible, I'm not sure that her life afterwards would be very pleasant. I hope that you are able to keep her comfortable a while longer.

July 27, 2018

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Bambina

dog-breed-icon

Exotic Persian

dog-age-icon

12 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Cancer, Halitosis

Just find out that sadly my 12y cat Bambina has squamous cell carcinoma and a tumor underneath her tongue that cannot be removed now due to location and size. My vet suggested chemotherapy to see if the tumor decreases and we can perform surgery, but they said she would have much of her tongue - if not all of it - removed. She is alreay well addapted to an esophaegic tube, has no methastasis and good general condition. So can a cat live without the tongue?

July 26, 2018

Bambina's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

I'm sure that a cat can live without a tongue, but I'm not sure that that surgery would be able to remove all of the cells, and the cancer may come back. I'm not sure that that is a kind procedure to do.

July 27, 2018

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Snow

dog-breed-icon

Persian

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Cancer Dental Diseas

My cat Have Blqck tumour under her tongue and tongue comes to one side and there is a black liquid in mouth and drooling with blood which have bad smell nothing eats and drink since 5 days his teeth are damaged Is this a oral cancer?

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Lucky

dog-breed-icon

domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

18 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Bleeding
Trouble Eating
Mouth Tumor

I'm not sure what to do for him. Lucky's been diagnosed around a week ago and the vet didn't operate. I'm not sure if it's because of severity, or because that the one that drove him to the vet is a complete defeatist. He's still trying to live, and is still trying to eat. Is there a way to remove the tumor, or should we just switch to liquid food and pray? I want to do whatever I can to help him survive. I don't want to say goodbye...

dog-name-icon

Gus

dog-breed-icon

domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

15 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Bad Breath
Excessive Saliva
Bloody Mouth
Can'T Eat Solid Foods

Hi there. I'm writing in to get some advise. About a month ago I came home and noticed a spot of dried blood on my cat (Gus). It was on his chest so I thought he may have scratched himself. I shaved his chest to investigate but I saw nothing. Weeks went by without seeing anything else. Two Thursdays ago I washed his bed and noticed small brown stains all over it. I figured it may have been some poop left on his bum. However that Saturday morning he started going nuts. He had dry food in his bowl but he kept meowing and pawing at everything he could to make as much noise as possible. So I gave him some wet food, he ate it super fast then went for a nap. So I thought maybe his dry food was too hard as he no longer wanted to eat it. I hoped he may have a broken or infected tooth and that's why he couldn't eat the dry food. We had also been noticing his breath getting worse over the past week.I called the vet and asked to make an appointment for a quick oral exam for Thursday. A few days go by, then we start to notice that he's drooling a lot. Like I woke up on Tuesday and he was standing beside my head and drool was dangling from his mouth to my pillow. We bring him in on Thursday and our vet sees nothing wrong with his teeth or anything with his mouth really. So we did a full geriatric/fat cat blood and urine profile. Everything came back fine (except for his thyroid but he's already on tapazol for that). So she wanted him to stay for the day on Monday so she could sedate him and look in his mouth better. So Monday comes along, I drop him off at the vet and a few hours later she calls me to tell me she didn't even have to sedate him she could see there was a giant tumor under his tongue that somehow got punctured and therefore infected. So now it's Wednesday and we're pretty sure it's cancer. I guess I'm wondering what my options really are. He's on two pain killers and seems to be fine, except when he eats or drinks. I have to make his wet food completely liquid and it seems to be very hard for him to swallow. He's cleaning himself just fine. So it is the "chewing" that's hard for him or the swallowing? If we were able to do surgery and some of his tongue needed to be removed could be still swallow? I guess I'm wondering if he's I'm pain when eating or when swallowing. Thanks for reading, I know it's very long

dog-name-icon

Buddy

dog-breed-icon

mixed

dog-age-icon

13 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Drooling

Has anyone had this diagnosis outta nowhere? Seriously noticed out cat Buddy who is 13 kind of drooling & curling his tongue for like 2 days called the vet to make an appointment thinking maybe he has an abscess or something....he also likes to rug really hard at plug/outlets so thought initially perhaps he zapped himself....vet couldn't get us in for a couple days then next day he looks like pus/drool is coming from one side & mouth looks uneven, I immediately call to get in that day was able to get in, vet said could very well be cancerous tumors on right back side of tongue...white pockets & some black areas...gave amoxicillin & carafate to see if its just a super infection before she jumps to a biopsy etc....I swear this cane out of left field, he know has been on meds for 1.5 days & he appears to be worse bit hoping he's just fighting infection...how aggressive is younger cancer at this rate it seems like we only have days..he's totally different than from 2 days ago! We are devastated!

dog-name-icon

Fluffy

dog-breed-icon

domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

12 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Drooling
Bad Breath
Trouble Eating & Drinking

Fluffy has had bad breath for a pretty long time, and she actually went to the vet a month or two ago and the vet said she would probably need put to sleep soon because they apparently couldn't remove the tumor that they discovered. She has also been drooling excessively for a few months and as of today she isn't really able to eat or drink; she does have a decent amount of energy left still, though. I was just wondering, at about what point is it too late to consider trying to have the tumor removed and to just do as the vet recommended and have her put to sleep?

Tongue Cancer Average Cost

From 453 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$10,000

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