Cattle cancer eye | Living the Country Life

Cattle cancer eye

Look closely at your cattle and check for growths on and around the eyeball. Cattle cancer eye can be treated when caught early. If not, you risk losing the animal.
Photo courtesy UC Davis Veterinary Medicine

Radio interview source: Rom Lemenager, Beef Extension Specialist, Purdue University

Humans aren't the only species that can develop skin cancer. It's fairly common in cattle as well.
Ron Lemenager  is a beef extension specialist at Purdue University. He says cancer eye is basically skin cancer on the eyeball or on the lids. It develops from benign lesions that have the potential to become malignant if untreated.
"One of them is a plaque, which is basically a slightly-elevated flat, opaque area on the eyeball," he says. "Secondly it could be a papilloma, which is more like a wart-like protrusion from the eyeball. The third one would be a keratoma, which is more of a horny-like projection attached to the eyelid. And then the fourth one would be maybe a small ulcer on the eyelid itself."
Lemenager says cancer eye is related to pigmentation of the eye and the surrounding tissue. All breeds are susceptible, but it appears most often in the white-faced breeds that lack pigment around the eyes. 
Cancer eye is most common in a 7- or 8-year-old animal. You typically won't see it on cattle less than 5-years-old.
Sometimes the lesions can be confused with pink eye or a trauma to the eye, so the most common treatment is early detection and dealing with the lesions before they become malignant.
"There a couple of things that we could do," says Lemenager. "We could either do electrocautery, which is basically burning, or we could use cryosurgery which would be freezing, like using liquid nitrogen. And this is much the same way that you would handle a skin cancer in humans."
Cancer eye is highly-treatable, but animals should be carefully observed because there is always a chance for re-occurrence. A lesion that becomes a malignant tumor can get into the lymph system and the animal will be condemned.  

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