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Ear Tumors in Cats

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Ear tumors are growths associated with the ear. The most common include squamous cell carcinoma, ceruminous gland adenoma or adenocarcinoma, sebaceous gland tumor and basal cell tumor.

Depending on the tumor type there may or may not be an underlying cause. Chronic inflammation may predispose to tumor formation and prolonged sunlight exposure may predispose certain tumors.

  • Ceruminous gland adenocarcinoma. These tumors are seen most commonly in middle-aged to older cats with light colored fur or skin and occurs after exposure to sunlight.

  • Basal cell tumor. These tumors generally affect middle aged to older cats and are most common in Siamese cats.

  • Sebaceous gland tumors. They are more common in middle-aged to older dogs than cats, with no sex predilection.

    What to Watch For

    Early in the illness, many individuals are have no clinical signs, and tumors are often incidental findings.

  • Skin changes on the ear
  • Crusts, ulcers or proliferative (excessive growth) tissue
  • Bleeding
  • Odor
  • Discharge
  • Nodular masses
  • Large growths filling the ear canal
  • Vestibular (balance) signs

    Diagnosis

  • Baseline tests, to include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis, are usually within normal limits.

  • Thoracic (chest) radiographs (X-rays) should be taken to rule out lung metastasis (spread).

  • Skull radiographs may be helpful in evaluating invasiveness or surrounding tissue involvement of tumors associated with the ear canal.

  • CT scan may be helpful in accessing extent of tumor and is necessary prior to radiation therapy.

  • Biopsy is necessary for a definitive diagnosis.

    Treatment

    The treatment depends on the tumor type, size, and location. Surgical resection or removal is the treatment of choice.

  • Surgical debulking, in which as much of the tumor as possible is removed
  • Cryosurgery, which is destruction of tissue by application of extreme cold
  • Hyperthermia, which is destruction of tissue by application of extreme heat
  • Radiation therapy in large or incompletely excised masses (ceruminous gland adenocarcinoma)

    Home Care and Prevention

    Follow all instructions given to you by your veterinarian. If your pet has a recurrence of signs, contact your veterinarian at once. Prognosis varies depending on the type, location, size, and ability to remove the tumor surgically.

    Limit sun exposure to prevent squamous cell carcinomas and address chronic ear problems promptly, as inflammation may predispose to cancer.

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