Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a slow-growing type of cancer. If this diagnosed at an early stage, SCC can still be treated.
Areas of the skin where SCC develop are the arms, legs, head, neck, lips, hands, and ears. Unlike other cancers, SCC can spread throughout the body. It could even affect the tissues, bones, as well as the lymph nodes.
SCC usually appear as thick scaly patches. It may even be confused as warts or open sores that may sometimes bleed.
Symptoms of SCC
SCC on its developing stage starts as red scaly patches. Since SCC is slow-growing, large growths of SCC may itch and even bleed. It may also appear on wounded areas as well as chronic skin sore. If such incidents happen, be sure to let your doctor know about it right away.
The following are most likely to develop SCC:
- Long exposure under the sun
- Inherited condition
- Old age
- Blonde or red hair
- Blue, green, or gray eyes
- Tanning beds or bulbs
- Long exposure to radiation
- Bowen’s disease
- HPV, HIV, or AIDS
Aside from seeing a doctor, a patient who experiences symptoms of SCC may also see a dermatologist.
Like how other skin conditions are being diagnosed, one will have to undergo an interview first. This will include family history, as well as past episodes of sunburns or tanning. The doctor will also check for other symptoms or pain that the patient is feeling.
It is also best to keep track of when the patches started to appear since this information will also help the doctor.
After checking for other possible symptoms, one may also undergo a physical examination. This is for the doctor to check the size, shape, texture, and color of the patches.
The doctor may also recommend including skin biopsy most especially for bumps that are questionable. The sample will be forwarded to a lab for a further assessment of the condition.
Warning Signs of SCC: What to look for?
As mentioned above, SCC would appear as rough, scaly patches. They may also appear as open sores that would have the tendency to bleed anytime. The borders of the patches are a bit raised. It also has a flat surface that is crusted.
One may suspect SCC if the surrounding skin of the patches looks damaged by the sun. Means to say, the outside skin may have wrinkling and pigment changes.
SCC is also associated to open sores that are too impossible to heal. If the mentioned symptoms are present, make sure to consult an expert right away.
Treatment for SCC
Severe symptoms of SCC may be prevented if the condition is treated right away. SCC is even curable and could then be eliminated. But, large tumors could cause more damage and pain to the patient. This makes it harder for SCC to be treated.
Once SCC has spread on different areas of the body, it becomes life-threatening. This usually happens when SCC begins to attack the lymph nodes, tissues, and even the organs of a person.
Luckily, there are now various ways on how to cure SCC. For SCC that doesn’t have severe symptoms, a minor surgery will do.
For severe conditions, there are also various surgical procedures that could be considered. The kind of treatment would depend on the size, location, and depth of SCC. Other factors will also have to include such as the patient’s general health condition and age.
Surgical Procedures for SCC:
Excisional Surgery requires the removal of the tumor including the surrounding skin. This is to make sure that the area would remain clean and safe for growing SCC. This treatment is usually recommended for SCC that haven’t affected other areas of the body yet. Excision is usually recommended for patients that do not have severe symptoms yet.
Once the tumors have been removed, the doctor will have the close the area with stitches. The tissue specimen will then be transferred to a lab for sample testing. This is to make sure that no tumors or cancer cells are left.
There could be possibilities wherein the tumors have spread outside the safety margins. So if the lab finds out that there are tumors left, the patient will have to undergo another surgery.
Mohs Surgery is the most common type of surgery for treating SCC. This treatment also targets important and sensitive areas of the body where SCC have developed. This includes the eyes, neck, ears, lips, nose, and fingers.
Mohs Surgery is often recommended on SCC that are spreading all throughout the body.
This type of surgery is done by destroying tumors in the body. The doctor will have the freeze the tumors through cotton-tipped applicators or a spray device.
Cryosurgery doesn’t even need anesthesia. It also doesn’t include any pain or bleeding. Yet, swelling, redness, and blistering may take place after the treatment. It is also possible for the doctor to repeat the treatment more than once to make sure all tumors are destroyed. Unlike other surgical treatments, cryosurgery cannot be considered as a cure. The effectiveness of the treatment will also depend on the expertise of the doctor.
Curettage and Electrosurgery
This treatment is usually recommended for minor bumps. This includes usage of anesthesia since the patient might feel a little stinging sensation upon procedure.
The doctor will scrape all bumps with a curette and burn the tumor with an electrocautery needle. This is to kill all the cancer cells surrounding the bump. It is also possible for the doctor to repeat the procedure for a few times to make sure that no cancer cells are left. Since this treatment might leave scars, doctors do not usually recommend this for aggressive SCCs.
Unlike other surgical procedures, Radiation Therapy doesn’t need any needle or cutting or bleeding. The doctor will only have to use low-energy X-ray beams to destroy the tumor. Often times, this treatment is only recommended for patients who are not conducive for surgery. Radiation Therapy is also used for hard to treat tumors.
Photodynamic Therapy or PDT
The doctor will apply light-sensitizing topical agent on the lesion including the bordering skin. It may only take an hour or two before the agent is absorbed by the skin.
Once the treatment is done, the patient is required to avoid direct sunlight. One may also experience flaking, swelling, redness, peeling, and pain after the procedure.
There are also FDA-approved treatments that may be used to cure SCC. But, there are also medications that are said to have toxic effects on cancer cells. This is why it is important for the patient to discuss possible treatments with an expert first to avoid a more severe reaction.
Patients who already had past episodes of SCC may also suffer from the same condition twice. Most especially if the affected areas are still being exposed under the sun.
Recurring SCC may happen but there are guidelines on how one can prevent SCC from taking place:
- Avoid tanning
- Avoid the sun on peak hours
- Use a broad spectrum sunscreen
- Avoid tanning beds
- Wear clothing to protect exposed skin
- Avoid sunburns