Squamous cells make up your skin’s uppermost layer, called the epidermis. When abnormal cells arise within that layer and begin to grow uncontrollably, they cause squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC. Along with basal cell carcinoma, SCC is sometimes referred to as a non-melanoma skin cancer.
SCC can appear on any part of your body that’s been exposed to the sun, but it’s most often found on the face, neck, ears, bald scalp, backs of the hands, and lower legs. It’s mainly caused by cumulative, lifetime exposure to ultraviolet light mostly from the sun or tanning beds.
SCC spots may look like a red scaly patch, an open sore, a wart, or an elevated growth with a depression in the middle. They may also crust or bleed. SCC can begin as a precancerous growth called actinic keratosis, or AK. AKs are typically red or pink rough patches that may be rough, scaly, or dry. It’s estimated that up to 60% of SCCs develop from an AK.
SCC diagnosis begins with a comprehensive skin exam. The only way to conclusively diagnose SCC is with a skin biopsy, which involves the removal of some or all of the suspicious growth for examination under a microscope.
The type of treatment used to address SCC depends on how deep the cancer has grown, and whether or not it has spread. SCC is most often treated surgically, either through excision surgery or Mohs surgery. In an excision, your doctor will numb your skin before cutting out the SCC, as well as some of the surrounding skin, or margin.
At Easton Dermatology Associates, Dr. Hyland Cronin is the Mohs surgeon who performs this highly successful, specialized procedure. It involves excising the visible parts of an SCC, and then removing successive layers of skin that may contain cancer cells. As each layer is removed, it’s examined under the microscope, and more layers are removed until cancer cells are no longer detected.
Protecting yourself from the sun and avoiding tanning beds are the best ways to minimize your risk of most types of skin cancer, including SCC. This means applying sunscreen whenever you plan to be outside, even on cloudy days or in the colder months. It may also mean wearing a wide-brimmed hat and clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Even with sunscreen and the right clothes, however, it’s usually best to avoid spending prolonged periods under the hot, midday sun. If you must be outside in such situations, stay in the shade.
At Easton Dermatology Associates, we accept most major insurance plans. Here is a list of some of the plans we accept. Please contact our office if you do not see your insurance provider listed.