Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This type of skin cancer turns your skin cells into multiplying agents, producing sores and lesions at the surface of your skin. Caught early enough, it can be treated with non-invasive techniques. But the longer you go without seeking treatment, the more difficult it is to get rid of. If you notice sores that don’t heal, get them checked out by an experienced dermatologist at Century Medical and Dental Center in Brooklyn.
Squamous cells are skin cells that reside in the middle and outer layers of your skin. When cancer strikes, squamous cells begin to multiply out of control. This common form of skin cancer usually isn’t life threatening, but it can be aggressive and difficult to treat. If you don’t deal with it, the cancer cells can spread to other parts of your body, causing dangerous complications.
This type of skin cancer, like melanoma and basal cell carcinoma, results most often from prolonged exposure to UV light. Whether you’ve spent too much time in the sun or fostered a tanning bed habit, your skin cell’s DNA mutates and the cells multiply quickly. Avoiding situations that allow too much UV light to reach your skin helps you lower your risk of squamous cell carcinoma.
Symptoms of this Skin Cancer
Squamous cell carcinoma appears most often on the sun-exposed areas of your skin — including on your ears, nose, scalp, lips and the backs of your hands. Squamous cells are found in other areas of your body as well — such as on the bottom of your feet, around your genitals and inside your mouth. Symptoms of the disease include:
- Scaly, crusty, flat sores
- A nodule that remains red and firm
- A scaly patch on your lip that evolves into an open sore
- An old scar or ulcer that develops a new sore
- Tough, red or sore patches in your mouth
- Raised, red, hard nodules on or around your anus or genitals
Causes and Risk Factors
While UV light exposure can’t explain all cases of squamous cell carcinoma, it seems to play a large role. You may be at greater risk if you:
- Work or play outside for extended periods of time without proper protective clothing or sunscreen
- Have fair, freckled, or easily sunburned skin
- Use tanning beds frequently
- Have a weakened immune system due to medication or other disorders
- Have a history of sunburns
- Have been treated for any previous pre-cancerous or cancerous skin conditions
- Receive a diagnosis of certain rare genetic disorders that predisposes you to skin problems
Untreated squamous carcinoma cells can turn aggressive and spread to other organs or lymph nodes. If you’re at risk or suspect you have skin cancer, get a cancer screening or an examination by one of the dermatology experts at Century Medical and Dental Center in Brooklyn.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatments
Your dermatologist treats your squamous cell carcinoma based on its size, type, location and stage. Small skin cancers caught in their early stages respond well to certain treatments while larger skin cancers — in later stages — require more extensive procedures. Small or early skin cancer treatments include:
- Laser therapy. Using an intense beam of light, your dermatologist vaporizes cancer cells and a small number of healthy skin cells. Lasers reduce the risk of swelling, bleeding or scarring. This treatment works best for very small, thin or superficial cancers.
- Electrodessication and curettage (ED&C). Your doctor removes the surface of your skin, including any lesions and a certain amount of healthy skin. Using an electric needle to sear the edges of the wound, your dermatologist controls bleeding and kills any remaining cancer cells.
- Freezing. Liquid nitrogen kills cancer cells effectively. Placing a small amount on the lesion, your doctor carefully scrapes away dead tissue, removing the affected cells.
- Photodynamic therapy. This treatment involves soaking the lesion with photosensitizing liquid medication and then exposing them to high bursts of light to destroy them.
When you have large skin cancer issues or skin cancer that’s advanced to its later stages, you need more aggressive, invasive treatments, such as:
- Surgery. Sometimes, simple surgery proves most effective, even with larger areas of skin cancer. After cutting away the affected area, including some healthy skin, your doctor checks the tissue with a microscope to ensure all cells are removed.
- Mohs surgery. With this type of surgery, your doctor excises the skin layer by layer until finding only healthy cells under a microscope. This works best for hard-to-treat or highly visible areas such as your ears, nose or lips.
- Radiation therapy. This treatment involves exposing cancer cells to high energy beams. The energy kills the cells. Your doctor may choose to use radiation after surgery, especially if there is a chance of the cancer spreading.
- Chemotherapy. One of the more readily recognizable forms of cancer treatment, chemotherapy involves using a type of drug that kills cancer cells. You may take the medication orally, as a topical ointment or through an IV.
- Immunotherapy. Another effective treatment involves helping your body’s own immune system fight the cancer cells. Sometimes, this method works when other options aren’t available or have proved ineffective.
Preventing Skin Cancer
If you’ve been treated for squamous cell cancer in the past or fall into one of the risk groups, practicing good sun protection habits can prevent damaging squamous cell carcinoma from reoccurring or spreading. Some tips to prevent skin cancer include:
- Stay out of the sun during the middle of the day.
- Wear protective clothing — such as broad-brimmed hats, long pants and long sleeves — to protect against the sun’s rays.
- Wear SPF 15 sunscreen year-round and reapply regularly.
- Avoid tanning beds, as they emit UV rays.
- Monitor your skin regularly to watch for any changes.
Your Brooklyn general physician at Century Medical and Dental Center helps you monitor your skin and advises you on your best options for treatment if any changes occur on your skin. Contact us today for a consultation.