Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer and accounts for 15-20% of skin cancers in the United States. Approximately 250,000 Americans are diagnoses with squamous cell carcinoma of the skin every year. It commonly presents as a pink, scaly, crusted lesion on sun exposed areas such as the head, face, neck and extremities. However, other areas of the skin can also be affected including the mouth and genitals. Risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma include fair skin, sun exposure, immunosuppression, increased age (more common after the age of 50), smoking & chewing tobacco (SCC of lips and mouth), and exposure to other sources of UV radiation such as tanning beds. Unlike basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma has a higher risk of spreading (metastasizing) to lymph nodes and other organs. Size, location, and duration of the tumor often determine the risk of metastasis. The larger the lesion and the longer it’s been present, the higher the risk of metastasis.
Like other skin cancers, a biopsy is required to confirm the diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma. Depending on the size and location of the lesion, there are different treatment options.
- Curettage & Electrodessication: The lesion is shaved, scraped, and burned with an electrical needle. The resulting wound is allowed to heal on its own over time.
- Surgical Excision: Standard of care, in which the lesion is surgically excised with appropriate margins and the wound is sutured up.
- Mohs Micrographic Surgery: A tissue-sparing procedure in which tumor is excised in layers and mapped out in the lab while the patient waits. Following excision, the defect may be closed with sutures or repaired with a skin graft or flap. This is the preferred method of treatment for large cancers or tumors on cosmetically sensitive areas.
- Topical Chemotherapy: Less invasive treatment option which can be used for superficial SCCs (squamous cell carcinoma in-situ). Usually requires several days to weeks of treatment.
- Radiation Therapy: Treatment option for difficult to treat tumors or patients that can not tolerate surgical excision.
Patients who develop any suspicious lesions that are changing, growing, bleeding or not healing, should consult a dermatologist for evaluation. Patients with a history of sun damage, precancerous lesions, or skin cancers may need routine skin examinations. Our physician can help determine the right treatment course for you.