Squamous Cell Carcinoma:
If you’ve been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), you are not alone. SCC is the second most common form of skin cancer. When detected early and treated properly, SCC is highly curable.
What SCC looks like:
SCC appears on the skin in many shapes. You may see a:
*Bump that feels crusty or rough.
*Flat patch that is red and rough.
*Dome-shaped bump that grows and may bleed.
*Sore that does not heal or heals and returns.
Most SCC develop on skin that gets sun exposure, such as the face, ears, lips, back of the hands, arms and legs. SCC can also develop on areas of the body that do not get sun, such as inside the mouth or on the genitals.
Some SCC’s begin as a precancerous growth called an actinic keratosis or AK. Most AKs share common qualities such as being dry, scaly and rough-textured. A single AK may range from the size of a pinhead to larger than a quarter.
Anyone can get SCC:
People of all skin colors get SCC although it is more common in Caucasians.
Your everyday activities expose you to ultraviolet (UV) rays, which damage your skin. You receive this exposure every time you go outdoors during the day, when you drive your car or sit near a window.
People who use tanning beds have a much higher risk of getting SCC. They also tend to get SCC earlier in life. Your risk of developing SCC increases if you have any of the following factors:
Your Physical traits:
*Pale or light-colored skin.
*Blue, green or gray eyes
*Blond or red hair
*An inability to tan
Your Life experiences:
*Spent a lot of time outdoors for work or leisure, without using sunscreen or covering up with clothing.
*Using tanning beds or sunlamps
*Been exposed to cancer-causing chemicals (e.g. arsenic in drinking water, coal tar, worked with some insecticides or herbicides)
*Spent lots of time heat, such as a fire
Your Medical History:
*Diagnosed with actinic keratoses (AKs)
*Badly burned your skin
*Have an ulcer or sore on your skin that has been there for many months or years
*Taking medicine that suppresses your immune system
*Received an organ transplant
*Infected with human papillomavirus (HPV)
*Had many PUVA light treatments
*Have one of these medical conditions; xeroderma pigmentosum, edpidermolysis bullous or albinism
SCC is curable:
When detected early and treated properly, SCC can spread to other parts of the body, making treatment difficult.
Proper treatment begins with the right diagnosis. To diagnosis SCC, a dermatologist performs a skin biopsy. This is the only way to diagnose skin cancer. Your dermatologist can perform a biopsy using local anesthesia during an office visit.
To perform a biopsy, your dermatologist will remove the entire growth (or a part of it) that might be an SCC. Your dermatologist may send this to a laboratory or look at it under a microscope.
If the diagnosis is SCC, your dermatologist will consider many factors to determine the best treatment for you, including where the SCC appears on your body, if the SCC has spread to another part of your body and your overall health.
Treatment for SCC involves having one or more of the following:
This is a surgical procedure. Your dermatologist can perform this during an office visit using local anesthesia. Excision involves removing the SCC and some normal-looking tissue around it.
What your dermatologist removes will be examined under a microscope. If the normal-looking skin contains cancer cells, you will need more treatment. You may need stiches to close the wound following treatment.
*MOHS Micrographic Surgery:
Mohs is usually performed in a medical office under local anesthesia while you remain awake by a dermatologist who has received specialized training to become a Mohs surgeon.
During the surgery, the Mohs surgeon first removes the SCC and some normal-looking surrounding skin around and below it.
While you wait, the Mohs surgeon uses a microscope to look at what was removed, if the surgeon uses a microscope to look at what was removed. If the surgeon sees cancer cells, he or she will continue to remove very small amounts of skin and look at each layer of skin under the microscope. This process continues until cancer cells are no longer seen. You may need stitches to close the wound following treatment.
When a patient is not a good candidate for surgery to remove the cancer, radiation therapy may be recommended. A series of radiation treatments are used to destroy the cancer cells.
*Curettage & Electrodesiccation:
This treatment removes the cancer by first scraping (curetting) the growth from the skin and then intensely heating the treated area to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
This treatment uses light to remove some very early skin cancers and actinic keratoses. PDT is a two step process. First, a chemical is applied to the skin, The chemical remains on the skin for some time so that it can be absorbed. Then the skin is exposed to a special light to kill the cancer cells.
Lasers can be used to remove an SCC that sits on the surface of the skin. This treatment is only recommended for early SCCs.
*Chemotherapy or Immunotherapy Cream:
When SCC is caught early, a dermatologist may prescribe medicine that you apply to your skin at home to destroy the cancer cells.
If you have a condition that causes you to develop many SCCs, an oral medicine may be prescribed that can reduce the likelihood of developing future SCCs.
SCC increases your risk for additional skin cancer:
Studies show that people who get skin cancer have a greater risk of developing another skin cancer. The following can help you detect and prevent new skin cancers:
*Keep all appointments with your dermatologist. When found early, skin cancer can often be cured.
*Perform skin self-exams. Examine your skin as often as your dermatologist recommends Be sure to check your scalp, ears, genitals and buttocks.
*If you notice anything on your skin that is changing, itching or bleeding, immediately make an appointment to see your dermatologist. Tell the person who schedules the appointment why you want to see your dermatologist.
Protect your skin everyday by:
*Seeking shade. Shade helps protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Shade is especially important between 10:00am and 2:00pm when the sun’s rays are strongest. But any time your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
*Wearing protective clothing. This means wearing a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses when possible.
*Generously applying sunscreen that offer broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection, water-resistance and a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more. Be sure to apply the sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside. Apply it to all skin that clothing will not cover. You should reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days. After swimming or sweating, you also need to reapply your sunscreen.
*Protect your skin when around water, snow and sand. These reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun.
*Never use a tanning bed. UV light from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product. Even when using one of these products, you need to use sunscreen.
*Use condoms. This can prevent an HPV infection, which reduces the risk for getting SCC on the genitals.
*Limit the amount of alcohol you drink and do not smoke. Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol can increase your risk of getting SCC in your mouth.
Visit the SPOT Skin Cancer website: http://www.SpotSkinCancer.org-to:
*Learn how to perform a skin self-exam.
*Download a body mole map for tracking changes on your skin.
*Find a free SPOTme skin cancer screening in your area.
*Share your skin cancer story.
*Download free educational materials to share with your family and friends or in your community.
A board-certified dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating the medical surgical and cosmetic conditions of the skin, hair and nails. To learn more about squamous cell carcinoma, visit http://www.aad.org or call toll free (888) 462-DERM (3376) to find a board-certified dermatologist in your area.
To learn more:
The American Academy of Dermatology is your trusted source for expert information on skin, hair and nail health.
Visit aad.org to:
*Learn the signs and symptoms, treatments and tips for managing a variety of skin, hair and nail conditions.
*Learn how to prevent and detect skin cancer, including how to perform a skin self-exam, download a body mole map for tracking changes in your skin and find free SPOTme skin cancer screenings in your area.
*Watch videos with simple tips on how to care for skin, hair and nails.
*Find updates on the latest health, beauty and cosmetic treatments.
*Locate a dermatologist in your area.
Disclaimer: This information was taken directly from the American Academy of Dermatology pamphlet. Please call the above number or email them for more information.