Skin cancer can develop in a number of different forms, all of which need to be treated with individualized care. One of the more common types of skin cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). In fact, it is the second most common form of skin cancer behind basal cell carcinoma. Below, we take a closer look at the causes, symptoms and treatment options for this form of skin cancer.
Causes and Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Like most cases of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma develops as a result of damage from UV exposure from the sun or from tanning beds. It’s common in areas of your body that get a lot of sun exposure, like your shoulders, arms, head, neck and ears. It’s also more common in patients that are at an elevated risk for skin cancer. Some individuals who may be at a higher risk for SCC are those who are fair skinned, are older age, are male, those with blonde or red hair and individuals that frequently use tanning beds.
Squamous cell carcinomas may appear slightly different than what you imagine when you picture a potentially-cancerous mole in your head. They usually begin as a red, domed bump or a scaly patch of skin. They are also usually crusty and rough, and they may bleed when touched or rubbed. Larger growths may itch or become uncomfortable. They can also develop around scar sites, so keep an eye out for any new red growths or changes to current moles.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you believe you may be dealing with a squamous cell carcinoma or your doctor notices a mole during your physical, you may be advised to talk to a skin cancer specialist like Dr. Koeplin or a dermatologist in your area. During the diagnosis process, they will ask about your symptoms, review your medical history, talk about your UV ray exposure and when you first noticed the growth.
After developing a baseline, they’ll conduct a physical exam of the area. They will be checking the size, shape, color and texture of the growth, and they may also examine your lymph nodes to make sure an issue has not spread. If they have questions about the growth, they may take a skin biopsy and send it to a lab for testing.
If the growth turns out to be squamous cell carcinoma, you’ll need to have the cancer removed to prevent it from potentially spreading to other areas of your body. It’s a slow growing cancer, but it needs to be treated as soon as possible for best results. Your skin cancer specialist can remove the cancer using a couple of different techniques based on your specific situation:
- Excision – Cutting out the cancer and a small portion of healthy skin to ensure the entire cancer has been removed.
- Mohs Surgery – Similar to excision in that the tumor is fully removed with the assistance of a microscope.
- Radiation Therapy – Using radiation to kill the cancer cells.
- Laser Removal – Using ablative and nonablative lasers to remove the SCC.
- Lymph Node Surgery – Removal of the lymph node in the event the cancer has spread.
Once the cancer has been fully removed, you’ll be considered cancer free. With that said, because you’ve developed a squamous cell carcinoma, you’re at a heightened risk for another development on your body in the future. That’s why it’s especially important to practice good skin care, wear clothing to cover exposed areas of skin, avoid tanning beds and perform regular skin cancer checks. For more information or to have a mole looked at by a professional, reach out to Dr. Koeplin’s office today.