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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

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Lacey Jane

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DOMESTIC

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14 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Drooling
Drooling, Trouble Eating & Drinking

I just took my 14 year old cat to the vet. She has a tumor under her tongue. They told me there was nothing they could do. Is this correct? She is having trouble eating & drinking.

May 25, 2018

Lacey Jane's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Lacey Jane is an older cat and any surgery should be considered to determine whether or not it would be overall beneficial to the patient or not; small tumours may be able to be removed but large invasive tumours would be difficult to remove and may grow back quickly after removal. You should visit another Veterinarian for a second opinion if you have doubts on the advice you were given, without examining her myself I cannot really weigh in on this. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 26, 2018

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Tiger

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Mixed breed

dog-age-icon

12 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Mouth Salivation
Seizures
Mouth Odor
Vomiting
Itching
Pain In Mouth
Mouth Tumor
Tongue Tumor

I just found a mass on the bottom of my cat's tongue after noticing that was drooling a lot and the drool had a slight smell to it, so I wrapped my little buddy in a towel and took a look at his mouth, and found a lot of redness, then when I opened his mouth I saw a pretty obvious tumorous mass on the underside of is tongue; he has also lost several teeth! I plan on taking him to our vet, but I wondering if there is anything I can do for him until his appointment! He as also been having some seizure-like activity were he flops to the ground and thrashes around for a few seconds and then starts to come out of it and he does throw up now and then! I am really worried about him because all of his symptoms match up with those on the Tongue Cancer in Cats profile!

April 10, 2018

Tiger's Owner

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1 Recommendations

It is possible that the mass you are seeing is a tumour, although another possible cause is a ranula which is a salivary mucocele under the tongue; without examining Tiger I cannot say whether the cause is a tumour or mucocele but your Veterinarian would be able to guide you. For the time being, ensure that Tiger can drink and eat; if possible try to clean his remaining teeth to try and improve oral hygiene. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://commons.wikivet.net/images/thumb/9/98/Vet_Dentistry_10.jpg/500px-Vet_Dentistry_10.jpg

April 10, 2018

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Sophie

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Unknown

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

My daughter's cat is awaiting the biopsy for a tumor on the tongue, which is inoperable due to its location on the rear of the tongue and size. Doctors think it is cancer. If this is confirmed, is there liquid food that can be given to the cat to make it easier for her to eat as time passes?

Feb. 18, 2018

Sophie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. As long as Sophie is comfortable and not suffering, there are liquid foods that can be given - one is called A/D, and can be prescribed by your veterinarian. I hope that she is able to remain comfortable a while longer.

Feb. 18, 2018

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Fat Cal

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DOMESTIC

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16 Years

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Had to have my 16 year old cat put to sleep today...diagnosis cancer of the tongue. She had been losing blood in my home. Should I worry about it being contagious to my other pets

Oct. 27, 2017

Fat Cal's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Cancer is not contagious from one cat to another, just ensure that any blood dripped by Fat Cat is cleaned up and everything will be fine. You may be thinking of FeLV, but this disease may be passed with nasal secretions or saliva so blood wouldn’t make a difference in transmission. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Oct. 28, 2017

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Amelia

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domestic short hair

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15 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

What is considered early detection for mouth cancer? Our cat has a tumor about the size of an olive underneath her tongue. She just recently started showing symptoms of being ill 4 days ago, which is why we took her to the vet and they saw the tumor. She is acting like she wants to drink water but cannot drink it and when she does manage to get some down she throws up bile. Just in 4 days her condition has declined noticeably and she is losing weight. Is it too late for treatment? She is 15 years old. And can you tell me how long does it take on average for cats to recover from getting oral surgery or having part of their tongue removed with the tumor? And if they are able to eat well afterward?

Oct. 19, 2017

Amelia's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Generally any mass in the oral cavity whether it is a tumour or ranula would start to cause issues with eating early on but may only present with eating slower than usual which may be missed by some owners, especially if the food bowl is in a utility room or other low human traffic area in the house. Recovery varies depending on the size of the mass and the extent of the surgery; the surgery would be required regardless but she may have difficulty lapping up water afterwards (food not so much affected) and you may need to elevate her water bowl or try alternative methods (I once saw a cat drinking from a hamster water bottle). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Oct. 20, 2017

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Bubba

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Orange tabby

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Blood In Mouth

We noticed something different in our cat;Bubba, when he would be eating his food but some would fall out of his mouth and by the end of his meal his food would be all over the floor where he has tried to eat it, he also began to dribble/drool a lot more then normal. The next day small amounts of blood started to come out of his mouth so we took him straight to the vets where they found a Tumor underneath his tongue, I would say it was fairly big however this is the only tumor I have ever seen. The vet gave him a steroid and antibiotic injection and told us to come back in a week to see if it helped however if not we should start thinking if he still has a good quality of life. The vet also said as the Tumor is located underneath the tongue it would not be able to be removed. I just wanted to know if there is anything else I can do? To make him feel more comfortable or to try and treat it? Thanks

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Saki

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Tonkines

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Is there any way to stop the bleeding? my cat is 13 years old and has cancer tumor under his tongue. its pretty big and bleeds daily. He is also a diabetic. his blood sugars are on the high side, between 300-470 I test him twice daily. He doesn't seem to be in any pain. He is a large cat weight is 17.8. He eats with no issues. He is loving and very affectionate. He definitely sleeps a lot more. Everyone acts like I'm crazy and should put him down.I don't want him to suffer in anyway. I feel like he is OK other then the bleeding...

Tongue Cancer Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$10,000

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