Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Understanding Its Risks and Treatment
What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer caused by an overproduction of squamous cells in your epidermis, the top layer of your skin. SCC typically presents as a red, scaly patch or sore, a non-healing ulcer, or a raised growth with a central depression. Sometimes, it can resemble a wart or a crusty lesion.
While Squamous cell carcinoma is less common than basal cell carcinoma, the number of reported SCC cases in the U.S. has steadily increased. According to the skin cancer organization on SCC, an estimated 1.8 million cases of SCC are diagnosed each year, which translates to about 205 cases diagnosed every hour.
What Are The Symptoms Of Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Squamous cell carcinoma manifests as various skin changes or growths. SCC mainly occurs in body areas exposed to UV radiation, such as your face, hands, or ears. However, it can also appear in your mouth and on your genitals. The symptoms of SCC can include:
- Thick, Rough, or Scaly Patches: These patches might resemble warts and can be red, crusty, or scaly.
- Raised Bumps or Nodules: These can be firm and red, sometimes with a rough or scaly surface. They might bleed or develop a crust.
- A Scar Does Not Heal: A wound that won’t heal or a sore that heals and then returns.
- Painful swallowing: A painful swallowing around the bump or the scare.
- Open Sores or Ulcers: These might not heal, or they may bleed or ooze. They can sometimes become painful.
- Wart-like Growth: SCC might appear as a growth similar to a wart, often rough in texture and raised from the skin.
What Are The Causes Of Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Prolonged or excessive exposure to UV radiation can damage the DNA within skin cells, leading to the development of this particular type of skin cancer.
A rare genetic disorder called xeroderma pigmentosum can also be one of the risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma. Moreover, people who have a history of blistering sunburns in childhood can also possess a high risk of Squamous cell carcinoma.
What Are The Available Diagnosis of Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
- Physical Examination: Your doctor will conduct a thorough examination of the skin, evaluating any suspicious lesions or growths. They’ll examine the color, size, shape, and texture of the skin abnormalities.
- Biopsy: If the doctor suspects SCC, a biopsy is usually performed. During a biopsy, a small sample of the suspicious tissue is removed and sent to a laboratory for analysis. There are different types of skin biopsies, including:
- Shave Biopsy: A superficial layer of the skin is removed using a scalpel.
- Punch Biopsy: A deeper cylindrical sample of skin is removed with a punch tool.
- Incisional Biopsy: A portion of the suspicious area is surgically excised for examination.
- Excisional Biopsy: The entire suspicious lesion is surgically removed for analysis.
- Staging: If SCC is confirmed, further tests may be conducted to determine the cancer stage. Staging helps assess the extent and spread of the cancer, which guides treatment decisions.
- Dermoscopy: In some cases, a dermatoscope—a handheld instrument with magnification and light—is used to examine skin lesions more closely. Dermoscopy can help doctors distinguish between benign and malignant skin lesions.
What Are The Treatments For Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
There are multiple treatment options available for squamous cell carcinoma. Each has its own benefits and application areas. Here are the available treatments for squamous cell carcinoma
- Surgical Removal: The primary treatment for squamous cell carcinoma involves surgical removal of the tumor and surrounding healthy tissue. Doctors generally recommend Mohs surgery, a precise technique that removes thin layers of skin gradually, especially for the face.
- Cryotherapy: if the SCC is in its early stages, doctors may use freezing cancer cell treatment. In this treatment, the doctor freezes the cancer cells with liquid nitrogen.
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation may be used when surgery is not feasible or for deeply invasive SCCs. It involves high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells.
- Topical Medications: For superficial SCCs, doctors may use topical medications such as creams or gels containing e fluorouracil (5-FU).
- Electrodesiccation and Curettage (ED&C): This procedure involves scraping off the cancerous tissue and burning the base to destroy the remaining cancer cells. It’s useful for small and superficial SCCs.
- Photodynamic Therapy (PDT): PDT involves using a special light and a photosensitizing agent to kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: Systemic chemotherapy may be employed in more advanced cases where SCC has spread to other body parts. It’s not commonly used for SCC but may be necessary in some situations.
- Biological Therapy: It is also known as Immunotherapy. This treatment aims to boost the body’s immune system to help fight cancer. It’s being investigated for use in several SCC cases.
How To Prevent Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Preventing Squamous cell carcinoma involves various measures. Here are some strategies for the prevention of Squamous cell carcinoma:
- Before going outside, apply the sunscreen to all exposed areas of the skin and repeat approximately every two hours.
- Use sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
- Avoid tanning beds.
- Avoid going outside without wearing protective clothing.
- Maintain skin health by staying hydrated.
- A balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle can contribute to cell repair and maintenance.
- Conduct a self-examination of your skin regularly to detect any changes or abnormalities.
- Schedule regular skin checks with a dermatologist.
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What Are The Early Signs of Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)?
You can quickly identify squamous cell carcinoma. Its early signs include persistent sores and rough or scaly patches, which can be easily visible. Early detection and timely medical evaluation are crucial in identifying and addressing squamous cell carcinoma. The early signs of SCC are:
- Persistent Sores: Wounds or sores that do not heal or continue to recur, particularly those that bleed, ooze, crust, or scab over. Persistent sores are one of the most common early signs of SCC.
- Rough or Scaly Patches: Red, crusty, or scaly patches on the skin that might appear flat or slightly raised. They can resemble a sign of squamous cell carcinoma.
- Raised Bumps or Nodules: Firm, red nodules or raised areas on the skin that can sometimes be tender, itchy, or painful. It may indicate the presence of squamous cell carcinoma.
- Wart-like growths: The development of warts, which can bleed or develop a crust can be indicative of squamous cell carcinoma.
- Dark streak beneath a nail: SCC can look like a red, brown, or black line beneath a nail. When it develops around the nail, it can look like a wart that won’t go away. If you have a wart around a fingernail for years, consult your doctor.
How Ongo Care’s Team Can Help To Treat Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
We prioritize offering comprehensive and personalized treatment plans tailored to your needs, ensuring the best possible outcome for those affected by SCC.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Should I See a Doctor?
You should consult your doctor if there’s a patch of flat skin that doesn’t heal in eight weeks. Seeking medical advice is crucial if you observe any persistent skin changes, as early detection and treatment of SCC significantly impact the outcome.