Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Treatments for Cancerous Lesions in Bryn Mawr, Newtown Square, and Philadelphia
Squamous cell carcinoma is a highly treatable cancer of the skin that begins in the outermost layer, known as the epidermis. An increasing number of cases of this cancer have been reported in recent years. Our Bryn Mawr Skin & Cancer Institute team provides effective treatments for squamous cell carcinoma in the Philadelphia area, including Bryn Mawr, Newtown Square, and all of the Main Line, along with care for melanoma and other skin cancers.
What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Squamous cell carcinoma is a non-melanoma type of skin cancer. It is typically not life-threatening, but can locally damage other tissues and spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. Although it is less common than basal cell carcinoma, it has a higher risk of spreading to other areas of the body when it progresses. If it isn't diagnosed and treated early, squamous cell carcinoma can become fatal.
What Causes Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the primary risk associated with developing squamous cell carcinoma. Thin, flattened cells known as squamous cells are responsible for protecting the underlying tissue in the epidermis. UV rays can cause these cells to mutate and grow at an accelerated rate, resulting in the development of tumors. Risk factors for this cancer include:
- cumulative UV light exposure
- fair skin that easily freckles and burns
- light-colored eyes and hair
- being a man
- skin cancer in immediate family members
- immune system diseases
- radiation treatments
- certain chemical exposures
- skin injury or inflammation that is chronic or severe
What Are the Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Squamous cell carcinoma usually appears on sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the face, ears, neck, scalp, hands and lower legs.
However, it is also possible for the cancer to develop on any other part of the body and in chronically injured or scarred skin. Not all cancerous lesions look the same, so you need to continually monitor your skin for changes and talk to your dermatologist if you find anything that concerns you.
Squamous cell carcinoma typically appears as:
- hardened, red nodules
- rough, thickened skin
- scaly patches
- flat sores
- open sores
- elevated marks that are similar to warts
- raised growths with indentations
- unusual marks surrounded by wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and loose skin
Squamous cell carcinoma tumors don't heal properly and may have associated oozing, crusting, bleeding, and itching. People who have this cancer often have signs of sun damage, such as wrinkles, sunspots, and precancerous growths, including actinic keratoses (AK), for years before the cancer develops.
How Can You Prevent Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
There are steps that you can take to lower your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. One of the most important steps for preventing skin cancer is avoiding overexposure to UV radiation, especially during the time of the day when the sun's rays are strongest. Seek shelter, don't use artificial tanning devices, cover up with a shirt, hat, and sunglasses when you go out, and continually re-apply broadspectrum sunscreen each day.
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Medical Treatment Options for Squamous Cell Carcinoma
If you've spotted an abnormality on your skin that doesn't disappear over several weeks, talk to a dermatologist. There are various treatments available from our Bryn Mawr Skin & Cancer Institute physicians. The best treatment option for a particular patient will depend on a range of factors, including the lesion's size, location, potential risk for scarring and patient's health. Available treatments include Mohs surgery, excision, electrodessication and curettage, cryosurgery, and prescription topical medications.