Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most-common skin cancer (Basal Cell being the most), affecting more than 250,000 Americans each year. It is a major type of cancer that arises from the superficial layer (epidermis) of the skin and mucous membranes and occurs most commonly on areas exposed to the sun. When identified early and treated promptly, SCCs are not serious. However, if overlooked, they are harder to treat and can cause disfigurement. While 96-97% of SCCs are localized, the small percentage of remaining cases can penetrate, destroy underlying tissue and spread to distant organs (metastasize) and become life-threatening.
Chronic sun exposure is the leading cause of squamous cell carcinoma, especially in people with fair skin, light hair and blue, green or grey eyes.
Other factors which may contribute to the development of this type of cancer include burns, scars, exposure to radiation or chemicals, chronic inflammatory conditions and immuno-suppression. Although less likely to develop than in fair-skinned individuals, squamous cell carcinoma may occur in dark-skinned people, especially at sites of pre-existing inflammatory conditions or burns.
Signs which may indicate the presence of a squamous cell carcinoma include scaly red patches, elevated growth with central depression, wart-like growths, nodules and open sores. All of these types of lesions may develop a crusted surface or bleed.
After a biopsy has been taken and the diagnosis confirmed microscopically by a board certified dermatopathologist, treatment is required. Several effective methods are available to treat this tumor. Drs. Winton, Clemons, Benson, and Peterson’s choice of therapy depends on the size, location, depth of penetration and type of squamous cell carcinoma encountered. The patient’s age and general health are also taken into consideration. The more common treatment options include excisional surgery, electrosurgery, radiation therapy and Mohs surgery.
When properly treated the cure rate for squamous cell carcinoma is approximately 95%.