Tongue Cancer (Squamous Cell Carcinoma) in Cats

Lingual Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Cats

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.

Cats can be afflicted with several types of squamous cell carcinoma tumors, including in the mouth. A squamous cell carcinoma on the tongue is usually located underneath the tongue where it attaches to the bottom of the mouth. It can be white in color and sometimes has a cauliflower shape. This type of tumor grows and metastasizes quickly to other parts of the body.

As with many types of carcinomas, this is usually seen in older cats. In this case, older than seven years of age. It is otherwise rarely seen in cats.

Symptoms and Types

  • Drooling
  • Small white growth under the tongue
  • Loose teeth
  • Bad Breath (halitosis)
  • Difficulty chewing and eating (dysphagia)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Blood coming from the mouth
  • Weight loss


There is no known cause for squamous cell carcinomas on the tongue.


Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your cat, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have led to this condition, such as accidental ingestion of a toxic substance that might have led to mouth sores, or other injury to the mouth.

A full visual inspection will be made of your cat's mouth and tongue, and a sample will be taken from the tumor for laboratory analysis. This is the only concrete way to determine whether the tumor is malignant or benign. X-ray images will also be taken of your cat's head and chest to determine if the cancer has spread into the bones, lungs, or brain. Your veterinarian will palpate your cat's lymph nodes to check for swelling – an indication that the body is fighting an invasive disease, and a sample of the lymph fluid will be taken to test for the presence of cancerous cells.

Standard tests include a complete blood count and biochemistry profile to make sure your cat's other organs are functioning normally.

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