Common in cats, cancers of the mouth are often associated with tumors that develop in the teeth, bones or soft tissue. The devastating disease generally occurs in middle-aged or older felines, but it can affect cats as young as 6 months of age. Prompt treatment is necessary before the cancer advances.
About 10 percent of feline tumors are found within the mouth, according to WebMD. Gingival fibrosarcoma is a type of cancerous growth made up of fibrous connective tissue. While fibrosarcoma is slow-growing, it can quickly attack surrounding tissues and bones. Gingival fibrosarcoma tends to be more common in male felines, with the average age of diagnosed felines being 7 and a half years. The cause of gingival fibrosarcoma is still unknown.
Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Oral squamous cell carcinoma, or OSCC, is the most common type of oral tumor in felines. According to the Morris Animal Foundation, this type of mouth cancer is extremely serious, as the condition is generally not diagnosed until it's too late. Vets often have difficulty performing surgery on this type of oral tumor, as the size of the tumor is considerably larger than the size of the jaw. Since OSCC can nearly debilitate your cat in a short time, immediate treatment is necessary.
Common Signs and Symptoms
Your cat may present with a number of signs and symptoms, depending on the type of mouth cancer he has. Gingival fibrosarcoma commonly presents with excessive salivation, halitosis, difficulty picking up food, difficulty chewing, loose teeth, oral growths, weight loss and, at times, bleeding from the mouth. Felines with oral squamous cell carcinoma often experience no symptoms until the condition has advanced. As the tumor progresses, your cat may experience pain when eating, swallowing, chewing, grooming and breathing.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
If your vet suspects that your normally frisky feline is suffering from oral cancer, he will conduct a thorough examination of your pet. A background of your cat's health will be obtained and your vet may ask questions such as “how much weight has your cat lost?" and “when did he stop eating?” In many cases, your vet will perform a complete blood count to ensure that all is well inside your cat's body; he may take X-rays, CTs and biopsies of oral tumors. Surgery is typically recommended for cats with oral tumors. In severe cases, a mandibulectomy, or removal of part of the lower jaw, may be necessary to eliminate aggressive tumors.
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