Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Posted September 14, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer. It’s usually found on areas of the body damaged by UV rays from the sun or tanning beds.

Overview of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

SCC is a fairly slow-growing skin cancer. Unlike other types of skin cancer, it can spread to the tissues, bones, and nearby lymph nodes, where it may become hard to treat. When caught early, it’s easy to treat.

Causes of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, like the ones from the sun or a tanning bed, affects the cells in the middle and outer layers of your skin and can cause them to make too many cells and not die off as they should.

  • This can lead to out-of-control growth of these cells, which can lead to squamous cell carcinoma.

  • Other things can contribute to this kind of overgrowth, too, like conditions that affect your immune system.

Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • A dome-shaped bump that looks like a wart

  • A red, scaly patch of skin that’s rough and crusty and bleeds easily

  • An open sore that doesn’t heal completely

  • A growth with raised edges and a lower area in the middle that might bleed or itch

Diagnosis of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist who specializes in skin conditions. They will:

  • Ask about your medical history

  • Ask about your history of severe sunburns or indoor tanning

  • Ask if you have any pain or other symptoms

  • Ask when the spot first appeared

  • Give you a physical exam to check the size, shape, color, and texture of the spot

  • Look for other spots on your body

  • Feel your lymph nodes to make sure they aren’t bigger or harder than normal

  • If your doctor thinks a bump looks questionable, they’ll remove a sample of the spot (a skin biopsy) to send to a lab for testing.

Treatment of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma can usually be treated with minor surgery that can be done in a doctor’s office or hospital clinic. Depending on the size and location of the SCC, your doctor may choose different techniques to remove it.

For small skin cancers

  • Curettage and electrodessication (C and E): removing the top layer of the skin cancer then using an electronic needle to kill cancer cells

  • Laser therapy: an intense light destroys the growth

  • Photodynamic therapy: a photosensitizing solution applied to your skin then activated with a light or daylight, or sometimes with intense pulsed light

  • Cryosurgery: freezing of the spot using liquid nitrogen

For larger skin cancers:

  • Excision: cutting out the cancer spot and some healthy skin around it, then stitching up the wound

  • Mohs surgery: excision and then inspecting the excised skin using a microscope; this requires stitching up the wound

  • Superficial radiation therapy

For cancers that spread beyond your skin

  • Lymph node surgery: remove a piece of the lymph node; uses general anesthesia

  • Topical chemotherapy : a gel or cream applied to the skin, sometimes with microneedling

  • Targeted drug treatment

  • Ablative and nonablative lasers, or chemical peels

Prevention of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • Avoid the sun during peak hours.

  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen daily even when it’s cloudy and raining on exposed skin, and reapply frequently when outside.

  • Wear clothing to cover exposed areas.

  • Avoid tanning beds.

  • Look closely at your skin regularly to see if there are any new growths or any changes in moles, freckles, bumps, or birthmarks.

  • Pay attention to your face, neck, ears, scalp, chest, arms, hands, legs, feet, genital area, and between your buttocks.

  • Call your doctor if you notice anything that looks questionable.

diseases disorders cancers squamous-cell-carcinoma carcinomas

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