Nasal tumors occur primarily in the nasal cavity and may later extend to the frontal and paranasal sinuses. Nasal tumors form a very small percentage of feline tumors and are less common than nasal cancer in dogs. They are locally invasive and do not normally spread but are almost always malignant. They are not sex specific and usually occur at a young age.
In cats there is an indication that inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the nose or one of the paranasal sinuses may be the trigger that leads to a growth in the nasal cavity. Symptoms of nasal cancer in cats can remain concealed for as long as five years until the disease presents itself as a serious threat. Unlike the symptoms of liver cancer, symptoms of nasal cancer will seldom mimic symptoms of other conditions.
Nasal tumors and nasopharyngeal tumors reflect different symptoms. Nasal tumors often have a past history of nasal discharge and cat sneezing. Nasopharyngeal tumors on the other hand manifest as heavy breathing, often with a snoring sound and change in vocalism. Other signs include bleeding and facial deformity.
The veterinarian would look for clinical signs of a mass effect on digital palpation of the cat’s soft palate, inflammatory polyps and a history of bacterial or viral rhinitis. If the clinical findings point towards a nasal or nasopharyngeal tumor, laboratory tests and imaging is done to investigate further to confirm or rule out cancer.
Complete blood tests some times reveal concurrent symptoms associated with nasal cancer, such as an abnormally low platelet count.
The two most common types of nasal tumors in cats are lymphoma (cancer of the lymph tissue) and carcinoma (cancer of the epithelial tissue). Chemotherapy is reasonably effective mode of treatment for nasal lymphoma but cats with feline leukemia virus are at a risk of systemic failure. An aggressive treatment for nasal lymphoma should thus be a combination of local radiation and systemic chemotherapy.
Studies reveal that carcinomas in the nasal cavity treated with surgery have resulted in an average survival time of only two to five weeks. The results of irradiation on nasal tumors have not been studied extensively. The nasal cavity of cats is deep and nasal tumors may be difficult to approach for excision. Radiation alone may be effective for treating nasal tumors using orthovolatage and megavoltage radiation therapy. For accessible tumors surgery before radiation may be the recommended treatment.
Nasal cancer presents a poor prognosis irrespective of the stage it has advanced to. Side effects of radiation result in persistent change in turbinates, ophthalmic and corneal ulcerations. Surgery, on the other hand, does not improve the survival time and owners are often forced to consider euthanasia within two to eight weeks.