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Ear and Nose Cancer in White Cats

SCC cat’s ear

What is ear and nose cancer?

Known as Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), this is the most common type of cancer that will appear in the nose and ears of white cats – though it will only appear in white areas, not in places that hold pigment. Though they are highly invasive locally, they are generally slow to spread. However, if left untreated for long enough, it will spread to regional lymph nodes.

Diagnosis methods

These cancers initially appear as small scabs, which owners often mistake as sores from fights or from roaming the garden. However, these non-healing scabs are actually precancerous changes, and is the earliest sign that the owner will receive. As the changes continue to progress, a more obvious ulceration of the affected tissue will appear, as well as weeping and secondary bacterial infections. As the cancer continues to progress, we see severe tissue destruction. Whilst these later stages are still treatable, there is a higher risk that the cancer has already spread.

Cryotherapy therapy nose SCC

Treatment options

In the early stages of SCC, the nose of the cat can be readily treated with cryotherapy, using liquid nitrogen and a general anaesthetic. This treatment allows for little to no changes to the appearance of the cat. Where the SCC has advanced or is invasive, the nose will have to be treated surgically and can result in significant aesthetic changes – though it is still treatable in most cases.

If the SCC is apparent in the ear, immediate removal of the complete ear at the base is recommended. If the affected portion only is removed, the disease will often reoccur in the remainder of the ear. By removing the entire ear, there is less cost for the owner and only one surgery for the cat.

Cost of treatment

If cryotherapy is possible, we charge between $500-$700, depending on the length of the procedure and other ancillaries such as blood tests. Where surgery is required, we charge between $700-$900. If performed at a referral centre, this could cost between $2,000-$3,000 or more!

Recovery and aftercare

You can generally take your cat home on the same day as the cryotherapy is performed, though we suggest a stay of two to three days in hospital on IV fluids if we undertake surgery (this is to ensure they have started to eat and drink again). Your cat can then go home with pain relief and antibiotics, before returning for a check-up two weeks following the procedure – where we assess the progress of the healing and remove any sutures from the surgery.

Avoiding SCC

Unfortunately, ear and nose cancer in white cats can rarely be avoided. Even indoor cats will sit near windows and become exposed to significant UV rays. The most important thing you can do is seek treatment early – this will result in a permanent cure with little risk of spreading when found in the ears and little change when found in the nose.

 

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