Basal Cell Tumors
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith

What are basal cell tumors?

Basal cell tumors are tumors that arise from cells of the skin (epithelium). They are the most common skin tumor in ferrets, accounting for approximately 25-50% of all cases. They may be found almost anywhere on the skin, and are usually benign. They have a similar appearance to warts, being white to pink in color, well-delineated, and sometimes having a "stalk" connecting them to the skin. They grow slowly and do not invade the skin beneath them, however, they can become ulcerated and bleed if traumatized. They are most common in ferrets over 4 years of age.

How are basal cell tumors diagnosed?

These tumors need to be examined microscopically to confirm the diagnosis. This can be done either through a small biopsy, or by removing the entire tumor and submitting it for examination by a veterinary pathologist.

How are basal cell tumors treated?

Even though benign, these tumors should be treated by surgical removal because they can easily ulcerate or be traumatized. If already ulcerated or infected, antibiotics may be necessary. The prognosis is excellent provided all the tumor is removed at the time of surgery.

References and Further Reading

Orcutt, C. Dermatologic diseases. In Quesenberry, KE; Carpenter, JW. (eds.). Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery. W.B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia, PA; 2004.

Parker, GA et al. Histopathogic features and post-surgical sequelae of 57 cutaneous neoplasms in ferrets (Mustela putorius furo). Veterinary Pathology, 30(6) 499-504, 1993.

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