Squamous Cell Carcinoma
What Is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
This non-melanoma form of cancer starts in the skin’s squamous cells, in the upper part of the epidermis. According to Harvard University School of Medicine, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is curable in almost ninety-five percent of the time. About two hundred fifty thousand people are diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma each year, and about one percent (two thousand five hundred) dies from it. In a small percentage of cases, squamous cell carcinoma spreads to the organs or bones. This complication is life threatening.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic report that squamous cell carcinoma is on the rise. This second most common form of skin cancer can develop almost anywhere on the patient’s body. Sun-exposed skin is most likely to develop these lesions. As with all forms of cancer, early identification, diagnosis, and treatment are the best ways to recover from this dermal cancer. Goodman Dermatology offers medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatments to patients in search of healthy skin.
People with light skin are generally considered at highest risk for development of squamous cell carcinoma. Men, people in middle age, and older patients who’ve spent years in the sun or at tanning salons may also have higher risks.
Doctors know that these lesions may appear in areas where the skin was previously injured, including scars, wounds that don’t heal (e.g. bed sores), burns, or areas of the body exposed to petroleum and its by-products, tar, or arsenic. Researchers believe that frequent x-rays of a certain area may be associated with the development of squamous cell carcinoma. Any form of chronic skin disease, inflammation, or certain diseases can also lower the patient’s immune system and stimulate squamous cell carcinoma’s development. Naturally, a patient who’s previously suffered from squamous cell carcinoma or another form of skin cancer may have increased risk of developing this cancer.
Some very specific patient groups have increased risk of developing skin cancer. Researchers at the University of California – San Francisco know that organ transplant recipients are three times as likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma at the wound site.
How Does Squamous Cell Carcinoma Look? How Will I Know If I Have It?
The lesions look crusty or scaly. The skin may be red or look inflamed. In general, the lesion can look like an ulcerated patch of skin or an area that’s crusting over, e.g. an infected wound. It’s impossible for the patient to know if he or she has squamous cell carcinoma without having the lesion/s biopsied by a licensed dermatologist. Confirmation of this skin cancer must occur before the physician can recommend the next treatment steps. The patient should call Dr. Marcus B. Goodman at Goodman Dermatology about any squamous cell carcinoma or skin cancer concerns.
Squamous cell carcinoma can appear anywhere on the patient’s body but it’s most likely to develop in areas that have been repeatedly exposed to ultraviolet light. For instance, the patient’s face, hands, ears, lips, or neck are likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma. However, patients also develop lesions in mucous membranes of the mouth or genital area. Previous scars are also frequent sites. The patient should examine his or her skin as part of a general skin health routine, and pay special attention to previously damaged or constantly irritated skin. If the patient has confirmed actinic keratoses, it’s important to treat these dry, peeling, or scaling areas to avoid the development of actual skin cancer in the future.
Is this disease treatable?
Yes, especially when detected in the early stages of development. It’s important to seek treatment early, because squamous cell carcinoma is potentially fast growing. As the cancer spreads on the skin, it damages healthy skin in its path. Sometimes, squamous cell carcinoma spreads to the patient’s organs, cartilage, or into the bones. Metastasis is a serious complication of many kinds of cancer, and the highest risk of squamous cell carcinoma metastasis is from lesions appearing on or around the face. Patients with suppressed or weakened immune systems are also at risk for the spread of squamous cell carcinoma.
It’s almost always best to remove squamous cell carcinoma tumors, and many dermatologists opt for surgical removal (excision) as a means to treat both first-incidence and recurring tumors. The physician must remove both the tumor and some of the healthy-looking skin around it. This area is known as the margin. Both SCC and basal cell tumors are approximately two to four millimeters in diameter. Squamous cell carcinoma cure rates by excision are about nine-two percent according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Successful cure of the cancer depends upon where it’s located and any “pattern” related to the lesions’ appearance. If there are many lesions to remove, the doctor may recommend an in-patient procedure.
What Other Treatments Are Used for This Cancer?
Since there are no one-size-fits-all treatment methods for SCC, it’s important for Goodman Dermatology to consider many factors, including lesions’ locations, size, first or recurrent carcinoma. Some of the most common treatments for SCC include: surgery (excision, removal of the tumor); Mohs micrographic surgery; curettage/electro-dessication; radiation; laser removal and therap; cryosurgery (freezing); photodynamic therapy; and some topical medicines, such as imiquimod, an immunomodulator.
Patients with concerns about Squamous Cell Carcinoma should call Dr. Marcus B. Goodman at Goodman Dermatology to arrange an appointment today at (770) 754-0787. New patients throughout Greater Atlanta, including patients in Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Canton, Woodstock, Holly Springs and Johns Creek are welcomed.