Lung Cancer (Squamous Cell Carcinoma) in Cats

Alex German
Oct 21, 2009
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Metastatic Lung Tumor in Cats

The squamous epithelium is the outer layer of the epithelium, consisting of flat, scale-like cells. The epithelium is the cellular covering of all of the internal and external surfaces of the body, effectively protecting the organs, inner cavities and outer surfaces of the body in a continuous layer of multi-layered tissue. A squamous cell carcinoma of the lung is a type of metastasizing tumor that arises from the squamous epithelium in the lung cavity.

This is a rare form of primary tumor in cats. However, it has a high metastatic potential, especially if it reaches the regional lymph nodes.

Symptoms and Types

  • Cough
  • Lethargy
  • Inability to perform normal physical actions
  • Weight loss
  • Lameness
  • Increased respiration rate
  • Coughing up blood


You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your cat's health and onset of symptoms. A standard physical examination will include routine laboratory tests, with a complete blood count, biochemical profiles, and urinalysis. The results of the blood tests may reveal an increased number of leukocytes or white blood cells (leukocytosis) in the blood, indicative of an invasion that the body is fighting against. Biochemistry profiles in some patients may show abnormally high levels of calcium (hypercalcemia).

Another diagnostic tool that your veterinarian can use to ascertain your cat's condition is an endoscope, a minimally invasive tubular device that can be inserted into the body without having to perform surgery in order to view the tumor up close and to take fluid and tissue samples from within the lungs. These samples can then be sent to a veterinary pathologist for further evaluation. The results of these tests usually provide an initial diagnosis. Your veterinarian will also take thoracic (chest) x-rays, which may show a single mass arising from a single focus. The trachea may appear to be displaced or compressed due to the presence of a mass, or tumor. In some patients a partial or complete airway obstruction may also be seen.

The only way to confirm a diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma is to take a lung tissue sample (biopsy). This sample will be sent to a veterinary pathologist, who will cut into very small sections to examine under a microscope.

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