4 Signs Your Cat Might Have Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

The oral cavity accounts for around 10% of all feline tumours, and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is one of the most common. SCC is an extremely aggressive cancer, and the estimated 1-year survival rate rests at less than 10%, a disturbing statistic indeed. Of course, being able to spot the condition early can help save your cat's life; even if it is too late for death to be avoided, your pet can be spared the pain of going through the disease without treatment.

Here are just four signs that your cat may be suffering from SCC.

1. You Notice a Mass in Your Cat's Mouth

As a responsible pet owner, you should be checking your cat's mouth regularly to check for any signs of decay or irritation; that's great, because checking the mouth can help you catch SCC early. You may notice an unexplained mass inside. When present, this mass will often be found underneath the tongue, just where the tongue connects to the bottom of the mouth. It is usually whitish in colour. If you notice such a mass, take your cat to the vet or an animal dentist straight away instead of waiting to see how it develops.

2. Your Cat Has Difficulty Eating

Sometimes an oral tumour will be difficult to spot, even when you're checking your cat's mouth on a regular basis. The tumour will often form near the back of the mouth, so it will be hard to see. However, it will present other signs, noticeably a difficulty while eating or a reticence to eat as much as normal. SCC typically makes eating painful, whether because of the added mass, irritation, or because it can loosen teeth. You may even notice a bloody discharge from the mouth, or your cat may seem to drool too much.

3. Your Cat Has Swollen Lymph Nodes

There are several reasons why feline lymph nodes may become swollen, and cancer is one of them. Swelling indicates that the cat's body is combatting an invasive disease. In fact, your vet will probably take a sample of lymphatic fluid in order to check for cancerous cells. Checking for swelling is actually best left to a professional since it can be hard to find, but you can still try yourself before visiting. The best places to check are where the jaw meets the neck, where a front leg meets the shoulder, or the armpit-like declivity behind the front legs.

4. Your Cat is Exposed to Cigarette Smoke

Though not an actual symptom of SCC, it's worth remembering that the condition is far more likely if your cat is subjected to tobacco smoke. The carcinogens from that smoke drift downwards to cover a cat's fur. When they groom themselves, they are bringing all those toxins into the mouth, so oral cancers are more likely. One study demonstrated that cats exposed to the smoke of one to 19 cigarettes per day were four times more likely to develop SCC.