What is squamous cell carcinoma?
Squamous cell carcinoma is a common form of skin cancer that is found in the middle and outer layers of skin. It develops when keratin proteins in the skin are mutated by excessive exposure to sunlight, creating precancerous lesions called actinic keratoses. If left untreated, actinic keratosis can turn into squamous cell carcinoma.
Which areas of the body are most affected by squamous cell carcinoma?
Squamous cell carcinoma most often appears on sun exposed areas of the body, but it can also occur in the mucous membranes and genitals. Common areas include:
- Rim of ears
- Lower lip
- Balding scalp
- Back of Hands
What does squamous cell carcinoma look like?
Squamous cell carcinoma is usually accompanied by obvious signs of sun damage, including wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, freckles, age spots, loss of elasticity, and broken blood vessels. Squamous cell growths exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:
- Scaly red patches
- A flat sore with a scaly crust
- Bleeding lesions
- A firm, red nodule
- A new sore or raised area on an old scar or ulcer
- A rough, scaly patch on your lip that may evolve to an open sore
- A red sore or rough patch inside your mouth
- A red, raised patch or wart like sore on or in the anus or on the genitals
Why are skin cancer screenings important?
Skin cancer screenings are the first line of defense against skin cancer. What may look like small, insignificant bumps could actually be lesions that have turned into cancer. The earlier squamous cell carcinoma is diagnosed and treated, the better. It’s much easier to completely remove the growths before they grow deeper into the skin
What happens during a squamous cell carcinoma screening?
Patients who receive a squamous cell carcinoma screening at LA Laser and Skin Center can expect a quick and painless 10-15 minute exam. A skin cancer specialist will check the entire body for abnormal growths, paying close attention to size, color, border, and shape. If anything looks suspicious, a biopsy will be ordered.
How do I know if my actinic keratosis has turned into squamous cell carcinoma?
Actinic keratosis can quickly turn into squamous cell carcinoma if not detected and treated early. Immediately visit a doctor if you notice any changes in the appearance of the lesions on your skin. Below are warning signs that your actinic keratoses may have turned into skin cancer:
- The color changes
- The lesions become unevenly smaller or bigger
- The lesions change in shape, texture, or height
- The lesions start to itch
- The lesions bleed or ooze
What treatments are available at LA Laser and Skin Center for squamous cell carcinoma?
Electrodesiccation and Curettage– During the first step, a curette is used to scrape out lesions. Next, an electrodesiccation tool is used to char the base and sides of the curetted area. The charred tissue is then removed. This process is repeated three times to ensure that all precancerous tissue is removed.
Cryosurgery and Curettage– During the first step, a curette is used to scrape out lesions. Then liquid nitrogen is applied with a cryogun to the base and sides of the curetted area, freezing the top layers of skin cells. The frozen area will gradually heal, and any dead skin and scabs will naturally detach during the healing process.
Cryosurgery- Cryosurgery without curettage is a less aggressive treatment option for carcinomas that are isolated to the outermost skin cells. Liquid nitrogen is applied with a cryogun to the center of the lesion, forming an ice ball in the center until the entire lesion is frozen. The treated lesion will gradually heal, and any dead skin and scabs will naturally detach during the healing process.
Surgical Excision - A scalpel is used to completely cut the lesion and a surrounding margin of healthy skin. Stitches are used to close the surgical opening.
Mohs Micrographic Surgery- Mohs micrographic surgery is a cutting edge skin cancer treatment performed by only the most highly skilled surgeons. The procedure starts with the removal of a small area of skin cancer, which is immediately tested under a microscope onsite to determine the location of the cancer cells in the sample. Patients remain in the operating room during testing. Once analysis pinpoints the direction of the cancer’s growth, another small layer of skin is removed and examined. This process continues layer by layer until all skin cancer cells have been removed. Click here to learn more about Moh’s micrographic surgery.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)– During photodynamic therapy, patients will receive a specialized medication that activates when light energy is applied directly to the target area. Multiple treatments are needed.