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Cats can be afflicted with several types of skin tumors, even on their ears. One type of tumor that can affect the ears is a squamous cell carcinoma. A squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) can be described as a malignant and particularly invasive tumor that takes hold in the scale like cells of the epithelium – the tissue that covers the body or lines the cavities of the body. These scale-like tissue cells are called the squamous.
Carcinoma is, by definition, an especially malignant and persistent form of cancer, often returning after is has been excised from the body and metastasizing to other organs and locations on the body.
An auricular (relating to the ear) squamous cell carcinoma may be caused by excess sun exposure. It is more common in white cats and in cats that have white ears. This type of tumor starts out as red, crusty looking areas on the tips of the ears. The sores, or ulcers, may seem to come and go and will slowly get bigger with time. There may be ulcers on the face as well. This type of cancer can be treated successfully if it is caught early.
You will need to provide a thorough history of your cat's health leading up to the onset of symptoms. Be sure to describe any sores that have been apparent on other parts of the body, even if you suspect they were caused by injuries resulting from outdoor activity, or from scratching at the skin.
During the examination, your veterinarian will look carefully for other sores or tumors on your cat's body. The lymph nodes will be carefully felt to determine if they are enlarged, an indication that the body is reacting to an infection or invasion. A sample of lymph fluid may be taken to test for cancerous cells. Your veterinarian will order complete blood count and biochemistry profile to make sure your cat's other organs are working normally and to determine whether the white blood cell count is higher than normal; again, an indication that the body is fighting an invasive disease or infection.
A biopsy will be taken of the ulcerated tissue on your cat's ear so that your doctor can diagnose the specific type of growth it is, whether carcinoma or a benign mass of tissue. This is necessary for differentiating the ulcers from any other condition that could be causing the same symptoms. X-rays images of your cat's chest and skull will allow your veterinarian to visually inspect the lungs for signs of any abnormalities, especially tumors, and to make sure that the carcinoma has not spread into the bones.
Something that becomes worse or life threatening as it spreads
The outside of the ear; may also be referred to as the auricle
Small structures that filter out the lymph and store lymphocytes
A covering of cells that turns into the outermost layer of skin and covers the body
The process of removing tissue to examine it, usually for medical reasons.
Not being able to cause harm; the opposite of malignant.