Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer.
Skin cancer falls into two groups: nonmelanoma and melanoma. Squamous cell is a type of nonmelanoma skin cancer.
Cancer - skin - squamous cell; Skin cancer - squamous cell; Nonmelanoma skin cancer - squamous cell; NMSC - squamous cell; Squamous cell skin cancer
Squamous cell cancer may occur in normal skin or in skin that has been injured or inflamed. Most skin cancers occur on skin that is regularly exposed to sunlight or other ultraviolet radiation.
The earliest form of squamous cell skin cancer is called Bowen's disease (or squamous cell in situ). This type has not spread to nearby tissues.
Actinic keratosis is a precancerous skin lesion that rarely may become a squamous cell cancer.
Risks for squamous cell skin cancer include:
Squamous cell skin cancer usually occurs on the face, ears, neck, hands, or arm. It may occur on other areas.
The main symptom is a growing bump that may have a rough, scaly surface and flat reddish patches.
The earliest form appears as a scaly, crusted, and large reddish patch (often larger than 1 inch).
A sore that does not heal can be a sign of squamous cell cancer. Any change in an existing wart, mole, or other skin lesion could be a sign of skin cancer.
Exams and Tests
Your doctor will check your skin and look at the size, shape, color, and texture of any suspicious areas.
If your doctor thinks you might have skin cancer, a piece of skin will be removed and sent to a lab for examination under a microscope. This is called a skin biopsy. There are different types of skin biopsies.
A skin biopsy must be done to confirm squamous cell skin cancer or other skin cancers.
Treatment depends on the size and location of the skin cancer, how far it has spread, and your overall health. Some squamous cell skin cancers may be more difficult to treat.
Treatment may involve:
Radiation may be used if the squamous cell skin cancer has spread to organs or lymph nodes, or if the cancer cannot be treated with surgery.
For more treatment information, see: Actinic keratosis
How well a patient does depends on many things, including how quickly the cancer was diagnosed. Most of these cancers are cured when treated early.
Some squamous cell cancers may return.
If you have had skin cancer, you should have regular check-ups so that a doctor can examine your skin. You should also examine your skin once a month. Use a hand mirror to check hard-to-see places. Call your doctor if you notice anything unusual.
Squamous cell cancer spreads faster than basal cell cancer, but still may grow slowly. It may spread to other parts of the body, including internal organs.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have a sore or spot on your skin that changes in:
You should also call if an existing spot becomes painful or swollen, or if it starts to bleed or itch.
The best way to prevent skin cancer is to reduce your exposure to sunlight. Ultraviolet light is most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so try to avoid sun exposure during these hours. Protect the skin by wearing hats, long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, or pants.
Always use sunscreen:
Other important facts to help you avoid too much sun exposure:
Examine the skin regularly for unusual growths or skin changes.
American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2006. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society; 2006.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Medical Practice Guidelines and Oncology: Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Cancers. V.1.2009. Accessed July 15, 2009.
Hexsel CL, Bangert SD, Hebert AA, et al. Current sunscreen issues: 2007 Food and Drug Administration sunscreen labeling recommendations and combination sunscreen/insect repellant products. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;59:316-323.
Lautenschlager S, Wulf HC, Pittelkow MR. Photoprotection. Lancet. 2007;370:528-537.
Ridky TW. Nonmelanoma skin cancer. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007;57:484-501.
Wood GS, Gunkel J, Stewart D, et al. Nonmelanoma skin cancers: basal and squamous cell carcinomas. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Nierderhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 74.
Review Date: 7/26/2011
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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