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Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is one of the most common types of skin cancers, with over one million new cases diagnosed each year in the United States alone.
With more and more cases of SCC being diagnosed each year, it’s important to learn more about this skin cancer so you can identify the warning signs, know your treatment options, and understand how this skin cancer can impact your life.
What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in squamous cells, which are found in the upper layer of the epidermis (the uppermost layer of skin).
Like all skin cancers, squamous cell carcinoma is primarily caused by excessive, unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. In fact, roughly 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with UV exposure. When UV rays damage the DNA of squamous cells, they mutate and begin to replicate out of control, causing SCC.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma FAQ
In most cases, squamous cell carcinoma is easily curable if detected early enough and with the right treatment. However, if SCC goes undetected and is left to grow, it can become invasive, disfiguring, and deadly.
If you notice any of the following warning signs and symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist right away:
- Red, scaly patches that fail to heal completely or that heal but come back repeatedly.
- Open sores that won’t heal.
- Rough, thick, wart-like skin.
- Raised growths with a dip in the center.
Squamous cell carcinoma most often appears as a crusted or scaly area of skin with a red, inflamed base that looks similar to a growing tumor, non-healing ulcer, or crusted-over patch of skin.
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are both incredibly common and begin in the topmost layer of skin (the epidermis). However, the difference between the two skin cancers is squamous cell carcinoma develops in squamous cells, which are in the upper layer of the epidermis, and basal cell carcinoma develops in basal cells, which are in the lower layer of the epidermis.
There are 5 stages of squamous cell carcinoma:
- Stage 0 – Cancer is found only in the original tumor in the skin.
- Stage 1 – Tumor is 2 centimeters wide or smaller. It may have spread into the dermis but has not spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
- Stage 2 – Tumor is larger than 2 centimeters and may have spread from the epidermis into the dermis but has not spread to the lymph nodes or other organs.
- Stage 3 – Cancer has spread to areas and organs below the skin, such as the bones and lymph nodes, but only to those near the original tumor. It has not spread to distant organs.
- Stage 4 – Cancer has spread to distant areas and organs, such as the brain and lungs.
Though squamous cell carcinoma is one of the most common skin cancers, it is almost always cured when it is found early and treated. If not treated, it may grow and spread (metastasize).
There are several ways to remove squamous cell carcinoma. The best treatment will depend on how big the cancer is, where it is on your body, and your age and overall health.
At Cumberland Skin Surgery and Dermatology, we offer these treatment options for squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer: