Nasal Cancer in Cats

Picture of a cat by the door

Nasal tumors are comparatively less common in cats than they are in dogs, but they still make up approximately 1% of all cancers that cats can develop. Usually, nasal cancer shows up along with sinus cancer, but it all depends on the specific type of neoplasm that the animal has developed.

In today’s article, we’re looking at everything you should know about feline nasal cancer — from the types that are most commonly diagnosed to whether or not it can be treated.

Causes of Nasal Cancer in Cats

No matter the body part that it affects, cancer has unknown causes even today, despite the huge amount of research that was performed in the past decades.

There are genetic factors, oncogenic viruses, as well as environmental factors involved in the process, but cats are generally more likely to get cancer when they are older – usually after the age of 7 or 8.

Since the causes are so varied, preventing cancer in cats is practically impossible. The minimum you can do is to feed your cat a healthy diet and make sure that she is not exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals.

Signs of Nasal Cancer in Cats

Since nasal cancer is less common compared to other types, pet owners might sometimes be confused about the clinical picture that their cats are showing. Most cats sneeze unusually much, and they have some amount of nasal discharge, but it can vary from one day to the next.

Other noticeable symptoms are listed below:

  • Snoring
  • Local pain
  • Pawing at the face
  • Epistaxis (blood in the nasal discharge)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion, dizziness, seizures
  • Facial deformities (especially when the cancer has also affected the sinuses)

Types of Nasal Cancer in Cats

We’ll go into more detail in the section about how this type of cancer is diagnosed, but there are several different types of nasal cancer that cats can develop.

The most common ones are lymphoma and carcinoma, and the first seems to be more frequent in our feline friends, while the second tends to affect dogs more. There are others, such as squamous cell carcinoma and sarcomas (fibrosarcoma, osteosarcoma, or chondrosarcoma), but they are statistically less frequently diagnosed in cats.

The reason your veterinarian needs to specifically find out which type of cancer your cat has developed, the type of tumor (benign or malignant), and the staging in case it is malignant is that they will be able to set a correct course of action therapy-wise based on all of this data.

How Is Feline Nasal Cancer Diagnosed?

The biggest problem with nasal tumors is that about a quarter of all of those that are diagnosed in cats are invasive, which means that they can spread to other parts of the nasal cavity or the respiratory system. The most common malignancies are found in the lungs or the local lymph nodes.

There are several tests that your vet can use to tell whether your cat has nasal cancer or not. Some of the most basic ones range from a complete blood count to biochemistry, but there are many more that are advanced, and that can be used to diagnose the tumor, its specific location, and its size — such as x-rays and CT scans.

A fine needle aspirate or biopsy (always performed under general anesthesia) can also provide important information on the exact type of tumor that the cat has developed, its malignancy, and its staging.

Even though it might sound costly and complicated, accurately diagnosing nasal cancer is extremely important, especially since it can spread to the animal’s lungs or lymph nodes, so it can effectively put the cat’s life in danger.

How Is It Treated?

Unlike other types of cancer therapies, which we might have described in our other articles, nasal cancer cannot typically be treated using surgery. As such, the two most common methods used in its treatment are chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy can be a little challenging, especially since some cats can be in pain. The procedure typically involves at least 15 daily sessions, so the cat also has to receive medication for the inflammation or pain and even antibiotics, depending on the lesions that the cancer has produced.

Veterinary oncologists often recommend this type of therapy as the survival time is considerably increased with it — most cats survive for more than one year after completing the treatment.

Chemotherapy can be used, too. However, it seems to be less effective, and it also needs to be administered systemically. Some cats can experience side effects like nausea or general malaise, which makes pet owners a little reluctant when it comes to trying chemotherapy as a treatment method.

Prognosis and Life Expectancy

The prognosis is not positive as most cats have invasive tumors in their nose or sinuses, which means that by the time they are diagnosed, the neoplasm might have already spread to other body areas.

Radiation therapy has some of the best survival times, and more than half of the cats that are treated with it survive for at least six to eighteen months. In any case, early diagnosis is paramount with this type of cancer and any other, for that matter, so make sure that you take your cat to the animal hospital for a check-up at least once or twice a year.

Cats that are older than 7 should be seen by a vet twice a year just to be on the safe side of things.

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