Squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas are known as non-melanoma skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinomas account for about 30% of non-melanoma skin cancers and basal cell carcinoma are more common and account for about 70%.
Non-melanoma skin cancers are much more common in men than women and appear on the surface of the skin most exposed to the sun such as the head, neck, forearms, legs and hands.
What is squamous cell carcinoma?
Unlike a melanoma skin cancer which develops in the melanocytes deeper in the skin, a squamous cell carcinoma develops in the epidermis or outer layer of the skin, in the squamous cells. Squamous cells are flat cells located on the surface of the skin and if they are damaged from too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation, they begin to grow and divide in an abnormal and irregular way.
Squamous cell carcinomas can also develop in other parts of the body like the mouth, throat and lungs.
If not caught early, this skin cancer can be potentially serious and develop quickly compared to other cancers, often over weeks or months.
The symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma are:
- A lump or raised sore on your skin that grows quickly
- A thickened red, scaly spot like a drying pimple
- A sore or rough patch inside your mouth
- A sore spot on your skin that is tender to the touch has not healed after a few weeks
Squamous cell carcinoma facts and statistics
From the Cancer Council of Australia:
- If caught early, the majority of squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) can be successfully treated
- Non-melanoma skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinomas account for 25% of hospitalisations for cancer treatment
- Skin cancers account for around 80% of all cancers
- Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer on the world
- Squamous cell carcinomas occur almost twice as much in men than in women
- In 2016, 1960 people died from skin cancer in Australia, 1281 from melanoma and 679 from non-melanoma skin cancers such as SCC
What increases the risk of squamous cell carcinoma?
Over exposure to Ultraviolet radiation through the sun or tanning beds is thought to be the main cause of squamous cell carcinoma. There are other factors that also increase the incidence of these skin cancers:
- Anyone with fair skin – there is not enough pigment in the skin to protect the person from UV rays
- A history of being sunburnt – too many incidences of sunburn can increase the risk of squamous cell carcinoma
- Depressed or weakened immune system – the person may not have the capacity to heal changing skin cells before they become cancerous
- Previous history of skin cancer – this increases the risk of recurrence and we therefore develop an ongoing management plan to help reduce future risk
How do you check for squamous cell carcinomas?
Squamous cell carcinomas can develop quickly over weeks or months. If you see any red scaly spots or lumps that won’t heal it is important to get these checked. Phone us to book an appointment at Skintech Medical.
The skin cancers are diagnosed through clinical examination or a biopsy, taking a sample of the tissue and analysing it under a microscope. A pathologist will examine the removed tissue and determine the stages of cancer of the abnormal cells, by evaluating their thickness and depth of growth into the skin. The stage of the cancer determines whether the skin cancer will spread or not. However many squamous cell carcinomas on sun-exposed areas of skin do not usually spread.
What treatments are available for squamous cell carcinomas?
When caught early, most squamous cell carcinomas are treatable with minor surgery. A treatment plan will be created once the cancer has been properly diagnosed. The type and intensity of treatment depends on how long it has been on the skin and how quickly it has grown.
The types of treatments available are:
Biopsy – during a biopsy, sometimes the entire lump will be removed for testing. This may also become the treatment, requiring no further action other than check-ups if the biopsy returns as favourable.
Surgery – minor surgery is the most common treatment for squamous cell carcinomas which are removed under a local anaesthetic. If the cancer is more advanced, more tissue around the lump may be removed to ensure there are no cancer cells left.
Laser therapy – a narrow laser beam can be used for superficial skin lesions to destroy the cancer cells.
Freezing or cryosurgery – this treatment freezes cancer cells with liquid nitrogen and may be useful for early stage or superficial skin lesions.
Radiation – if surgery is not successful, radiation therapy may be an option which uses x-rays to kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA.
If the squamous cell carcinoma has spread to the lymph glands or to other parts of the body, then a treatment which combines surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be recommended.
Have confidence in your skin – book a check up at Skintech Medical in Victor Harbor
Our experienced and knowledgeable doctors are here to help you stay healthy and well, so you can continue enjoying an outdoor lifestyle in a smart and safe way as you age.
Skintech https://skintechmedical.com.au/ have a number of accredited and dedicated Skin Cancer Doctors in Victor Harbor. We have had extensive skin cancer training through the Skin Cancer College of Australasia and are here to help with surveillance of your skin, skin cancer care and management.
We have many years of experience and have access to up to date technology to help with management and surveillance of skin lesions. Ongoing and continuing medical education in this field is paramount for us to maintain our accreditation and ensure we provide a service to help accurately detect, monitor and treat any suspicious lesions.
We’ll help you learn how to scan your own skin and report anything that is sore, changing, abnormal or new. Contact us at 08 7078 2267 to book an appointment. We’re located at 23 Mayfield Terrace Victor Harbor.