Cancer of the Jaw in Cats

Written by cynthia gomez
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Cancer of the Jaw in Cats
Cats with jaw cancer may require extensive surgery. (cat image by Sergey Bykov from Fotolia.com)

Two forms of oral cancer that sometimes attack the jaw of cats are squamous cell carcinoma and fibrosarcomas. These can result in the development of tumours in the lower or upper jaw. These are potentially life-threatening conditions that require aggressive treatment.

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Definition

A fibrosarcoma is a tumour made up of malignant fibroblasts. It usually starts out as a small nodule and gradually becomes bigger. As it grows, the centre becomes necrotic and the nodule becomes an ulcer. Squamous cell carcinomas are made up of epidermal cells. They form when the process of skin cell death and renewal stops occurring normally and new skin cells continue to grow under old skin cells. Both can result in growths on the jaw.

Symptoms

Some symptoms typical of jaw cancer in cats are halitosis, difficulty eating, frequent and abnormal drooling, oral bleeding and swelling of the mouth and face. However, a cat with cancer of the jaw may also show no visible symptoms of illness. Symptoms often appear only when the cancer is very advanced. Without immediate treatment, a cat displaying these symptoms may only have a few months to live, according to the Long Beach Animal Hospital.

Diagnosis

Cancers of the jaw are often first spotted during dental cleanings. A diagnosis can be verified by performing a biopsy. Because cancer in the jaw can sometimes look like tooth root abscesses, the Long Beach Animal Hospital recommends that any suspicious growths on or near the jaws be biopsied during dental cleanings, when cats are already under anaesthesia. MRI and X-ray scans may be used to see whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Treatment

Oral cancers are most often treated by removing the malignant growths, according to the Vet Info website. Sometimes, part of the jaw may need to be removed. This surgery will be performed only if there's no evidence that the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. Additionally, cats who have tumours of the jaw removed may also require chemotherapy medication and radiation therapy to ensure that cancer cells are completely eradicated. In cases where very substantial amounts of the jaw may need to be removed to save a cat, your veterinarian may ask you to consider quality of life issues in deciding to proceed with treatment.

Aftercare

Cats that have undergone treatment for cancer of the jaw will need to be monitored to ensure that the cancer does not return and that they are responding favourably to chemotherapy and radiation. Following this surgery, cats who have had extensive portions of their jaws removed may need to be fed via a feeding tube. In cats where the cancer is too far advanced for treatment, your veterinarian may recommend medication to alleviate any pain and make your cat more comfortable during the end of his life.

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