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Basal Cell Tumors in Cats

Basal Cell Tumors in Cats

The most commonly seen tumors in cats are those affecting the skin or just under the skin. Our Thornton vets discuss everything you need to know about basal cell tumors in cats, as well as how they are diagnosed and treated.

What are basal cell tumors in cats?

The basal cells in cats are cells from the sweat glands, hair follicles, or sebaceous glands and create the basal layer of the epidermis, the outer layer of skin. When a cat experiences the uncontrolled division of these cells the result is an abnormal growth or mass which is a basal cell tumor. The basal layer of the skin contains a variety of types of cells, including those involved with inflammation and is important for the overall defense of the epidermis.

Most of the tumors that are diagnosed by our Thornton vets are basal cell tumors. If a cat is diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, this is a type of basal cell tumor that is cancerous (malignant). Luckily no more than 10% of diagnosed basal cell tumors are cancerous and they are most commonly seen in senior cats. 

What are the causes of basal cell tumors in cats?

While there is not any definite proven cause for the development of cancer or tumors in any cat or pet, there are various recognized contributing factors. Some of the most common risk factors include environmental and some genetic or hereditary. It is also more likely for particular breeds of pets to develop cancers compared to some others.

How are basal cell tumors in cats diagnosed?

Your vet may first evaluate the signs and symptoms that are being presented by completing a physical examination. They will look for signs such as:

  • A firm, hairless raised mass
  • Varying size of the mass
  • Cystic or ulcerate masses
  • Pigmentation of the mass

Once your vet determines that there is in fact a mass that is a likely tumor they will typically perform fine-needle aspiration (FNA). The process of FNA allows your vet to retrieve a cell sample from the mass to examine under a microscope. Occasionally the results from this procedure will be inconclusive or require the vet to perform a more thorough procedure for diagnostics. In these cases, your Thornton vet will perform a biopsy. The examination of a sample for biopsy is commonly referred to as histopathology and can help the vet determine the outcome of the tumor.

What are the treatment options for basal cell tumors in cats?

If your cat has been diagnosed with basal cell tumors or basal cell carcinomas then the most likely treatment recommendation will be surgery. Surgery will help reduce the risk of secondary complications, especially if the tumor is cystic or ulcerate which could cause infections. While rare, there is a small chance that the tumor could recur at the surgical site but the chance of this is low.

If your cat is experiencing a small tumor then their vet may also recommend the use of Cryosurgery which uses liquid nitrogen spray to freeze the tumor.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Does your cat have a suspicious lump on or under their skin? Book an appointment with our Thornton vets to have your cat examined.

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