what does cat skin cancer look like

Skin cancer in cats can take many different forms, including lesions, ulcers, scabs, warty lumps and bumps on the skin. They may be black, brown, grey, pink or red in colour. Look out for any unusual lumps and bumps on your cat and seek veterinary help if you find anything unusual.

Types of Skin Tumors in Cats

While cats can develop a variety of skin tumors, two classifications are more important than others: benign (noncancerous) and malignant (cancerous).

Common benign tumors/skin issues:

  • Lipomas (fatty tumors)
  • Cysts
  • Adenomas
  • Basal cell tumors (the most common type found in cats)
  • Squamous cell carcinoma in situ
  • Plasmacytomas (some)
  • Melanoma tumors (can also be malignant)

Although benign tumors are not as dangerous as cancerous ones, they may still need to be removed if they are larger or located in a place where they could impair a cat’s ability to function. For example, a cat may not be able to walk normally if they have a large fatty lipoma on their hind leg or under their arms. Cat parents occasionally have benign lumps removed for aesthetic purposes as well. It’s crucial to remember that figuring out whether a lump is benign shouldn’t be left up to speculation; pathology is the only way to know for sure.

Malignant tumors:

  • Mast cell tumors
  • Soft tissue sarcomas
  • Squamous cell carcinoma, which can also develop around the lips, nose, and eyes
  • Hemangiosarcomas
  • Plasmacytomas
  • Cutaneous lymphomas
  • Histiocytic tumors

A cat’s skin can also become infected with other cancers. These include mammary cancer and bladder cancer.

Signs of Skin Cancer in Cats

A visible tumor or palpable mass would be the most obvious sign of skin cancer in cats. Spotting one might be easier said than done, however. Until a tumor starts to grow, your cat’s fur would probably cover it. Certain cancers manifest morphologically, but unless a benign lesion becomes infected, a malignant tumor causes pain, or the cancer has progressed to the point where it has spread, a cat with skin cancer may not behave differently. Because these signs of skin cancer in cats are not always obvious, you can regularly check and feel your cat’s skin for any problems by petting them. Additionally, you can confirm that your veterinarian does so when you see them for routine wellness visits. Excessive licking of an area beyond what would be considered normal for grooming is another possible indicator of a skin problem. Your cat may be bothered by a growth and licking excessively as a result of an allergy or stress, which can result in lick granulomas, which are red, raised lesions as opposed to tumors. On the other hand, it is more likely that a cat will lick a mass because it is abnormal. They lick at it because it’s not supposed to be there.

Your veterinarian can conduct an examination and certain procedures to identify the nature of any lump you find under your cat’s skin and determine whether it is cancerous or not. The veterinarian will likely perform a fine needle aspiration to remove a tiny sample of tissue or cells from the mass in addition to a visual examination. Usually, a pathologist receives this sample and examines the cells under a microscope to determine whether they are benign or malignant. The pathologist might also be able to identify the type of cancer; however, in order to identify the nature of the mass, a biopsy might be required. In the event that a biopsy is recommended, your cat will likely undergo a urinalysis, chest X-ray, and blood work to ensure that they are healthy enough to go under anesthesia. Your veterinarian will also order a full workup if they believe the tumor to be malignant. X-rays in this instance can assist in determining whether the cancer has spread to the lungs. Some cancers spread to the regional lymph nodes. If there is an enlarged lymph node near the mass, your veterinarian will probably advise obtaining a sample (biopsy or aspirate). A biopsy will demonstrate the degree of aggressiveness—or lack thereof—of a specific mass. The work-up, or battery of tests, will identify the tumor’s disease stage.

Cats with skin cancer can receive a variety of treatments, but benign tumors might not need any additional care.

Benign tumors: Further treatment may not be required if pathology results indicate that a tumor is benign. Sometimes a mass will be excised. However, if the growth was left in place, the veterinarian could measure it and record its dimensions. In this manner, any further growth can be recorded during ensuing visits, and treatment can be recommended as necessary at that point. An illustration would be if a fatty tumor kept growing and started to bother you because of its size or location. Additionally, a cat parent may decide to treat a benign growth, like a sebaceous cyst. Removal is an option since these red, raised growths on the skin have the potential to burst or leak. Alternatively, a course of antibiotics may be recommended.

Malignant tumors: When possible, surgical excision of a malignant tumor is the recommended course of treatment. Achieving “clean” margins is the goal when excising the mass. This indicates that there is no cancer present in the tissue surrounding the removed portion’s outer edges. In some cases, this kind of surgery can treat malignant masses. Sometimes surgery may be accompanied by radiation therapy. If surgery is not possible or is not possible for some reason, radiation therapy may also be the main course of treatment.

There are two primary types of radiation therapy. Conventionally fractionated radiation therapy (CFRT), also referred to as traditional radiation, normally necessitates 15–21 treatment sessions. A more recent and cutting-edge method known as stereotactic radiation targets the tumor with even greater precision while using a higher radiation dose. A cat only needs to be anesthetized one to three times rather than fifteen to twenty-one because of the higher dosage, which only requires one to three sessions. Additionally, the precision targeting is intended to minimize harm to nearby healthy tissue. Stereotactic Radiation treatments are a specialty at PetCure Oncology.

If the type of skin cancer is very aggressive, or if it appears the cancer has spread to other areas of the skin or the lymphatic or vascular system, for example, an even more comprehensive treatment approach may be necessary. In such cases, veterinary medical oncologists may oversee the administration of chemotherapy as part of the treatment plan.

Even after treatment, certain forms of feline skin cancer can recur. Nonetheless, a cat can live for several months to years and do quite well. On the other hand, extremely aggressive cancers may spread within a few months. If so, it will be crucial to keep a close eye on your cat’s quality of life until the next decision needs to be made.

Causes of Cat Skin Cancer

Exposure to sunlight, whether from summertime outdoor activities or sleeping through your cat’s favorite window inside your home, is the primary cause of skin cancer in cats. If your cat has light-colored or thin fur, or if they have ever had a sunburn, they may be more susceptible to skin cancer.

Serious burns, physical trauma, and excessive licking of specific skin areas are less common causes of cat skin cancer.


How long can a cat live with skin cancer?

Some types of feline skin cancer will come back at some point even with treatment. However, a cat can do very well and have a good quality of life for several months to years.

Can cat skin cancer be cured?

This disease is highly treatable if detected early — but lethal if it goes unnoticed. That’s why a prompt diagnosis is crucial. During your cat’s routine physical exam, you’re likely to observe the veterinarian carefully studying the animal’s face, gently stroking its nose, and fondling its ears.

What does a cancer mass look like on a cat?

Skin tumors in cat have a variable appearance, but can be noted on the skin as cauliflower-like, reddened, raised or deep, isolated formations. The tumors are likely to develop on the pinna of the ears and face, but can be noted on any skin site.

What does squamous cell carcinoma look like in cats above the eye?

SCC can be highly variable in appearance. Tumors may appear as a shallow or deep sore (ulceration), a raised, reddened area, or a cauliflower-like growth.