Cat Oral Tumor Surgery
Discovering a growth in your cat’s mouth is a disheartening and frightening experience.
Unfortunately, the oral tumors most commonly found in cats tend to be malignant and very resistant to treatment. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common but fibrosarcoma, osteosarcoma and malignant melanoma are also possible. If your cat has developed a growth in their mouth there may still be some reasons to be hopeful. Not every oral mass is a tumor. There are a variety of inflammatory and infectious lesions or even less common benign cysts and tumors which may be amenable to treatment. In nearly all cases cat oral tumor surgery is most successful with early diagnosis and appropriate intervention as soon as possible.
Early detection, whether in humans or animals, is the best defense. Those owners that are consistent in caring for their animal’s teeth on a daily basis usually will be alerted to the presence of a growth sooner. A swollen face or the presence of a growth anywhere in the mouth, whether soft or firm and regardless of color, warrants immediate evaluation by a veterinarian.
Whether we refer to it as a growth or a mass or even a lump or bump there is no way to know for sure what your cat is dealing with without a biopsy. Collecting a biopsy sample involves either removing a small portion of the mass (incisional biopsy) or removing the entire mass (excisional biopsy) and sending that tissue to a pathologist for review. The results of the biopsy will help guide further treatment of your cat. Depending upon the size, location and appearance of the mass our veterinarians may recommend a single procedure consisting of an excisional biopsy with curative intent or staged procedures. Staged procedures begin with an incisional biopsy to identify the mass followed by a separate procedure based on that information to definitively treat.
Staging of your cat’s oral tumor involves determining the extent of the tumor in the mouth, and evaluating whether the tumor cells have spread to other distant sites. Imaging of the mouth, including dental radiographs and computed tomography (CT) can give us an indication of how invasive the tumor is and help us plan margins for complete removal. Involvement elsewhere in the body is evaluated with blood tests, lymph node evaluation and imaging including radiographs, ultrasound and computed tomography (CT) of the lungs or other areas. Staging is useful for establishing the prognosis and planning additional treatment if necessary. It can provide insights as to what you might expect with the disease.
Prognosis & Outcome
The prognosis is determined through consideration of the tumor type, size, location and staging. Invasive and malignant tumors often require complete removal of the affected teeth, bone and soft tissues. Surprisingly to many, even fairly extensive and invasive surgeries can still have very successful outcomes and result in minimal loss of function or cosmetic changes for the cat. The outcome will most often depends on the size and location of the tumor at the time of surgery.
Treatment Options for Oral Tumors in Cats
Surgical removal is usually the first and most effective treatment option for oral tumors when diagnosed early. Surgery offers the greatest potential to completely eliminate or cure the tumor.
Medical therapy (chemotherapy), radiation therapy and immunotherapy are ancillary treatment options. Some combination of these treatments, usually after surgery, may be required to produce the best results.