A closer look: Subcutaneous Lumps in Cats
Subcutaneous lumps in cats are very common. While many subcutaneous lumps are not necessarily cause for concern, some are serious and potentially life-threatening. Diagnostic testing is necessary to determine the specific type of lump, and timely intervention is critical for a good outcome, if the lump proves to be serious.
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Lipomas (fatty tumors) are an example of a very common benign subcutaneous tumor. Mammary adenocarcinoma (breast cancer) is a common subcutaneous malignancy, particularly in intact female cats and females who experienced at least one heat cycle prior to being spayed.
Feline injection site sarcomas (FISS) are a serious concern for subcutaneous masses at injection sites.
There are a wide range of possible causes for a subcutaneous lump on a cat. Some particular types of lumps are more or less likely depending on their location and the age of the cat. Treatment varies depending on the diagnosis.
Testing and diagnosis
The physical appearance of the lump sometimes suggests certain diagnoses, but analysis of the cells within the lump is necessary to confirm a diagnosis. Common diagnostic approaches include:
- Aspiration (the use of a needle to non-invasively draw out material from inside the subcutaneous lump for testing)
- Cytology (the microscopic investigation of the material to determine its structure, function and pathology)
- Biopsy Treatment is dependent on diagnosis. Some subcutaneous lumps are harmless when left in place and some must be removed. In some cases, outcomes are more severe such as with fibrosarcoma.
Subcutaneous lumps may be mistaken for:
- Cutaneous lumps (distinguished from subcutaneous lumps by the fact that they mark or disrupt the surface of the skin)
- Tumors arising from the bone
A variety of symptoms occur depending on the cause of the subcutaneous lump. If the lump is associated with an underlying condition, the symptoms of that condition are expected to develop without treatment. If the lump is benign, there may be no additional symptoms other than the lump itself.