Cutaneous Hemangiosarcoma in Cats

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Key takeaways

Cutaneous hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is a rare malignant skin cancer in cats that arises from abnormal cells within blood vessels. 

  • Cutaneous HSA usually arises on the head and ears in lightly haired areas
  • Middle aged to older cats with lightly pigmented skin are more prone to cutaneous HSA as sun exposure is thought to contribute to development of cutaneous HSA
  • Cutaneous HSA can appear as single or multiple red to purple skin masses
  • Diagnosis is confirmed by biopsy of the skin mass
  • Treatment is typically curative if surgical removal of the affected area is performed prior to the cancer spreading
  • Prognosis is generally good with quick treatment prior to the tumor spreading, although recurrence is common
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A closer look: Cutaneous Hemangiosarcoma in Cats


Cutaneous hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is a rare malignant skin cancer that arises from abnormal cells within blood vessels. Cutaneous HSA is less aggressive than HSA that occurs in other areas of the body, but removal as soon as possible is recommended. Prognosis is generally good with quick treatment prior to the tumor spreading, but recurrence is common.

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Risk factors


Cutaneous HSA is a rare form of cancer in cats. It usually occurs in middle-aged to older felines, particularly those that have lightly pigmented skin.

Additional symptoms due to spread of cutaneous HSA are very rare and depend on which area of the body is being affected. Additional symptoms typically do not appear until the disease reaches an advanced stage.

Possible causes


Sun exposure is thought to contribute to feline cutaneous HSA but a definitive cause is unknown.

Main symptoms


Cats with cutaneous HSA typically show no symptoms other than the presence of spots on the skin. Common characteristics include:

  • Purple or red skin masses
  • Masses most commonly occur on light colored, sparsely haired areas of the head and ears
  • Occur as single masses or multiples and range in size of 0.1-1.0cm in diameter
  • Lesions are not painful when squeezed or pressed gently

Testing and diagnosis


Cutaneous HSA is suspected based on the appearance of the patches on the skin. Bloodwork and biopsy of the mass are typically performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Spread of cutaneous HSA is rare, but diagnostic imaging is usually recommended prior to surgery to look for metastasis.

Steps to Recovery


Surgical removal is curative in most cases. Currently, there is no known benefit of using radiation or chemotherapy in addition to surgical removal with feline cutaneous HSA.

Ongoing monitoring for additional cutaneous HSA lesions after is warranted.

Prognosis is good with surgical removal of cutaneous lesions and no evidence of spread at the time of surgery. Studies of feline cutaneous HSA are small, but mean survival time (MST) of cats with cutaneous HSA was ~30 months when no treatment was rendered. MST was extended to ~48 months when surgery was performed.

Prevention


Limiting sun exposure is recommended, especially in cats with lightly pigmented skin. Cutaneous HSA is not contagious.

Is Cutaneous Hemangiosarcoma in Cats common?


Cutaneous HSA is a rare condition in cats.

Typical Treatment


  • Surgical removal
  • Ongoing monitoring

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