Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Parker Center for Plastic Surgery

What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma is a malignant growth of abnormal cells most commonly seen on the skin after years of sun damage. Occurring in the squamous cells in the epidermis, squamous cell carcinoma may develop anywhere on the body, but are common in areas that most frequently experience UV exposure, such as the ear, lower lip, face, scalp, neck, arms, and legs.

Squamous cell carcinomas often appear red and scaly, but may take the form of warts, open sores, or elevated growths that can crust or bleed. Areas where you might find squamous cell carcinomas may show cosmetic signs of excessive sun exposure, including changes in pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, and loose skin.

Although it spreads more easily than basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma can typically be cured if detected before it has the chance to spread to the lymph nodes.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Warning Signs

One of the most important skin cancer defenses is early detection through self-examination. It’s important to keep an eye on your skin for changes at all times, and you should be thoroughly examining yourself at least once a month.

Sometimes differentiating between a wart or mole and a malignant lesion may be difficult, but we have a few signs to look out for:

  • New growths or blemishes that have grown over time
  • A persistent rough and thick scaly patch that may bleed if knocked.
  • A wart that does not go away, increases in size, or develops redness
  • An open sore with a crusted surface and raised edge over a bumpy base that doesn’t heal.

Even if the signs don’t point to squamous cell carcinoma, you should contact your doctor if you see any unusual lumps, sores, blemishes, or changes in the way an area of skin feels or looks.

Treating Squamous Cell Carcinoma

When detected and removed at an early stage, squamous cell carcinoma is almost always curable, and should result in minimal damage to your skin. If a lesion is left untreated, however, there is greater risk of the squamous cell carcinoma penetrating underlying tissue and disfiguring the area.

Removal of squamous cell carcinomas can be approached in multiple ways, depending on the size, location, and depth of penetration of the tumor:

  • Mohs micrographic surgery is a highly effective treatment option for squamous cell carcinoma. Typically performed by an experienced dermatologist, Mohs surgery involves progressively removing and observing cancerous tissue until only healthy tissue remains. Coordinated reconstruction with a board certified plastic surgeon is usually scheduled shortly after Mohs is performed.
  • Surgical excision with frozen section margin control is a treatment option for those who do not require Mohs surgery and is performed entirely by Dr. Parker. This procedure involves surgically removing the cancerous legion and a margin of skin surrounding it. The tissue is then microscopically evaluated to determine if all cancerous tissue has been removed.

What to Do if You Suspect You Have Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Early detection is the best defense for skin cancer. If you have noted any changes in your skin, it’s important to contact a dermatologist or board certified plastic surgeon right away.

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