You’ll find squamous cells in the upper layer (surface) of the epidermis. The crusted, scaly patch of skin with the inflamed, red base look like scales under a microscope. Often tender to the touch, about 250,000 new cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed annually — and approximately 2,500 of them result in death.
Squamous cell carcinoma can be found anywhere, but will develop most frequently on your scalp, face, ears and back of hands. If you are fair-skinned, middle-aged and elderly with a history of sun exposure, you have a great risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. Some squamous cell carcinoma comes from actinic keratoses, which are dry scaly lesions that can be flesh-colored, reddish-brown or yellow black, and which appear on skin that is rough or leathery. These actinic keratoses spots are considered precancerous.
Both basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed via a biopsy — either excisional, where the entire tumor is removed along with some surrounding tissue, or incisional, where part of the tumor is removed (used primarily for large lesions).
Treatments for squamous cell carcinoma include
- Cryosurgery — Some squamous cell carcinomas respond to cryosurgery, in which liquid nitrogen is used to freeze off the tumor.
- Curettage and Desiccation — The preferred method of dermatologists, this involves using a small metal instrument (called a curette) to scrape out the tumor along with an application of an electric current into the tissue to kill off remaining cancer cells.
- Mohs Micrographic Surgery — The preferred method for large tumors, Mohs Micrographic Surgery combines removal of cancerous tissue with microscopic review while the surgery takes place. By mapping the diseased tissue layer by layer, less healthy skin is damaged when removing the tumor.
- Prescription Medicated Creams — These creams can be applied at home. They stimulate the body’s natural immune system over the course of weeks.*
- Radiation Therapy — Radiation therapy is used for difficult-to-treat tumors, either because of their location, severity or persistence.
- Surgical Excision — In this treatment the tumor is surgically removed and stitched up.