Can I Help My Cat Who Has Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, offers advice for a cat afflicted with SCC.

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, offers advice for a cat afflicted with SCC.

Q: My 13-year-old calico cat was just diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. The bone on the left side of her mouth is growing and I am just devastated. My cat’s vet told me the only course of treatment that they really recommend is a chemotherapy  treatment that involves giving her pills. Can anything else help her feel good for longer — something homeopathic, maybe?  

A: I’m sorry to hear about your cat’s diagnosis. No good treatment exists for cat squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and these tumors carry a terrible prognosis. The only treatment that has any real measure of success in cats’ squamous cell carcinoma is surgery to remove the tumor. This is usually not possible in cats; by the time the tumor is diagnosed, it is too large and infiltrative to remove completely.

Once, I discovered a small growth on the underside of the tongue of a cat while I was performing a dental cleaning. I removed the growth in the cat’s mouth, and I was aggressive with the surgery. It turned out to be a SCC on the cat. I caught it early, before it infiltrated too deeply or spread to nearby lymph nodes in the cat. That case remains the only case of cat oral SCC that I’ve ever treated successfully.  

If surgery isn’t possible, other forms of treatment include radiation and chemotherapy. Radiation by itself is unlikely to shrink the tumor much, but it might help alleviate some of your cat’s pain associated with this tumor. Chemotherapy is also not very likely to shrink the tumor significantly.  In some cats, chemo will halt the growth of the tumor for a while, but eventually the tumor resumes growing.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs might have some effect on slowing the cat’s tumor growth, but they’re mostly given to help control pain. As for homeopathy, I personally am not a big believer in these treatments, especially for something like SCC. Work closely with your veterinarian in terms of making sure your cat can eat, drink and groom comfortably.

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