Radiation Therapy for Cats With Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Oral squamous cell carcinoma is the most common oral cancer in felines.
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If your beloved Kitty is diagnosed with oral squamous cell carcinoma, a cancer of the mouth, it's a serious situation. Even with aggressive treatment, many cats succumb to the disease. Radiation therapy might shrink the tumor and ease some of the pain the growth causes your cat.

Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

An oral squamous cell carcinoma tumor generally appears in the gum line or under the tongue. While there's no way to prevent these usually deadly tumors, maintaining a smoke-free home lowers the likelihood that your cat will come down with this disease. It's likely to lower your risk factors for cancer, as well. As with many cancers, early detection can save lives. If your cat receives annual veterinary dental cleanings, your vet might spot the growth in its early stages.


Cats suffering from an oral tumor experience trouble eating and might bleed from the mouth. You might feel a swelling in the jaw or cheek. Cats might exhibit excessive drooling, accompanied by bad breath. The tumor usually affects middle-aged and older cats. It's easy to confuse the symptoms of oral squamous cell carcinoma with feline dental disease. Take your cat to the vet at the first sign of any mouth or eating problems.


Your vet performs a biopsy on the tumor to determine whether it's benign or malignant. If it's the latter, she'll take X-rays to see the level of bone destruction the tumor might have caused. A computed tomography scan determines how far the tumor extends.


Although surgical removal of the tumor is the treatment of choice for most cancers, the cat's small mouth poses problems. This cancer also spreads quickly, so removing the tumor doesn't serve as a cure. Radiation therapy might commence after surgery, or serve as the primary treatment for pain control if the tumor is too large for removal. When used in conjunction with surgery, radiation therapy generally consists of 14 doses given within three weeks. While undergoing radiation, a cat must remain still for up to 20 minutes, so Kitty receives sedation prior to treatment.

Palliative Radiation Therapy

Palliative radiation therapy for cats diagnosed with oral squamous cell carcinoma doesn't cure the condition, but relieves some pain, inflammation and swelling associated with the tumor. According to the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, palliative radiation therapy consists of two daily sessions of radiation on two consecutive days. One month later, the treatment is repeated if the disease hasn't significantly progressed.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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