Squamous Cell Carcinoma

What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

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Squamous cell carcinomas that are large or recurrent have the potential to spread to lymph nodes and internal organs. Squamous cell carcinomas can be particularly aggressive in patients that have suppressed immune systems (organ transplants or lymphoma). With early surgical treatment, the cancer can almost always be successfully treated and internal spread prevented.

 

The tumors can grow in size and develop into large masses.  Since squamous cell carcinoma has the potential to metastasize (spread), this form of skin cancer can be lethal if not treated.  In aggressive cases, the tumor can spread to the lymph nodes or internal organs.  This is especially true when a tumor begins on a lip or ear, or the patient has a weakened immune system.  Conditions that weaken the immune system include an organ transplant, lymphoma, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

 

The treatment options for squamous cell carcinoma are similar to those used with basal cell carcinoma.  Superficial treatments can be used for superficial cancers.  Those moving deeper into the skin require excision or Mohs surgery.  A dermatologist is best positioned to decide the most appropriate treatment for a particular cancer.

 

Again, similar to basal cell carcinoma, sun restriction is important for patients who have had a squamous cell carcinoma.  Minimizing sun exposure through sunscreens, protective clothing, avoiding midday sun, etc., all play an important role.

 

Squamous cell carcinoma can take several forms:

  • Crusted or scaly area on the skin with a red, inflamed base.
  • Persistent, non-healing, ulcerated (skin not covering) bump or thickened skin on the lower lip.
  • Wart-like growth or plaque.
  • Sore that does not heal.
  • Red, scaly patches or bumps.

 

Squamous cell carcinomas that are large or recurrent have the potential to spread to lymph nodes and internal organs. Squamous cell carcinomas can be particularly aggressive in patients that have suppressed immune systems (organ transplants or lymphoma). With early surgical treatment, the cancer can almost always be successfully treated and internal spread prevented.

 

The tumors can grow in size and develop into large masses.  Since squamous cell carcinoma has the potential to metastasize (spread), this form of skin cancer can be lethal if not treated.  In aggressive cases, the tumor can spread to the lymph nodes or internal organs.  This is especially true when a tumor begins on a lip or ear, or the patient has a weakened immune system.  Conditions that weaken the immune system include an organ transplant, lymphoma, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

 

The treatment options for squamous cell carcinoma are similar to those used with basal cell carcinoma.  Superficial treatments can be used for superficial cancers.  Those moving deeper into the skin require excision or Mohs surgery.  A dermatologist is best positioned to decide the most appropriate treatment for a particular cancer.

 

Again, similar to basal cell carcinoma, sun restriction is important for patients who have had a squamous cell carcinoma.  Minimizing sun exposure through sunscreens, protective clothing, avoiding midday sun, etc., all play an important role.

Examples of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

SCALY/CRUSTED

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A persistent, scaly red patch with irregular borders

WART-LIKE

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A wart-like growth that crusts and occasionally bleeds

ELEVATED

An elevated growth with a central depression that occasionally bleeds. A growth of this type may rapidly increase in size.