What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer and concerns the presence of irregular growths in the body’s squamous cells, which are located in the upper layers of the skin. SCC’s typically resemble red, scabrous patches, ulcers, growths or warts and will often bleed. Like BCC’s, Squamous cell carcinomas have the potential to cause disfiguration and even death, if left untreated. SCC is attributed to the collective damage caused by prolonged sun exposure.
In most cases, SCC will develop on areas of the body that receive the most sun exposure, such as the face, neck, arms, legs and hands. In rare incidences however, SCC can also develop in areas that don’t receive sun exposure. Generally, the carcinoma will spawn in areas of the body that exhibit strong visible signs of UV damage, such as freckles, wrinkles, age spots and abnormal pigmentation.
Squamous cell carcinomas will generally have a rough, scabby appearance and will often bleed when physically damaged. They may also resemble a sore or ulcer and possess a crusted exterior. As a rule, it’s essential that you consult with a skin cancer specialist or dermatologist if you discover a newly formed skin lesion that refuses to heal.
Scabrous Red Patch – a rough textured, scab-like sore that may occasionally bleed or crust up
Skin Growth – skin growth that features a depressed centre that may sometimes bleed. This type of SCC is known to rapidly enlarge
Open Sore – an ominous looking skin sore that shows no signs of healing and will often bleed and crust
Wart-like Sore – this SCC resembles a wart that will crust and sometimes bleed
Who’s at Risk?
Literally anyone who has had a considerable amount of sun exposure throughout the course of their lives is at risk of developing SCC. However, those with fair skin and light eyes are at most risk. Additionally, those with outdoor occupations or who spend a considerable amount of recreational time outdoors, are at increased risk. Also, people who have been treated for Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) in the past, are at greater risk of developing SCC.
Squamous cell carcinoma is more than twice as prevalent in men than it is in women, which can explained by the greater amount time spent outdoors by men, either through outdoor work or recreational activities. Whilst it’s true that SCC is more common amongst older people, specifically those over the age of fifty, instances of patients in their twenties and thirties being treated for SCC has increased at an alarming rate in recent times.
There has been a significant increase in the number of women under the age of forty, developing SCC as well, which industry experts have blamed on tanning beds, as the large majority of tanning patients are female. Although SCC is most commonly caused by cumulative sun exposure over many years, it can also manifest in areas of the body that have been badly burned, scarred, or exposed to x-rays or harmful chemical substances, among other things. In incidences where SCC develops amongst seemingly healthy skin, some industry experts cite these as being caused by genetics.
Almost all cases of SCC can be treated successfully and with minimal scarring, when diagnosed early. However, if the cancerous growth manages to go undetected or if a person wrongfully dismisses them as being insignificant, the SCC will begin to puncture the lower-lying layers of skin, resulting in a deeper wound and larger skin. In some cases, negligence can cause the SCC to spread to other parts of the body, resulting in severe complications, or even death. For this reason, any unusual skin sore is cause for concern and should be examined immediately by a doctor.
The form of treatment used to remove the SCC will depend on the size and depth of the cancer, the type of SCC and its location on the body. At Skin Clinic Robina, we offer the following treatment methods at our Skin Cancer Clinic:
- Cream treatments
- Photodynamic therapy
- Curettage and cautery
- Simple excisions
- Flap surgery
- Graft surgery
- Margin control surgery
Anyone who has been treated for SCC in the past has a greater chance of developing further instances of the cancer in the future, particularly in the exact same part of the skin or close by. This is because the skin has been irreparably damaged by past sun exposure. For this reason, it’s imperative that sites of previous SCC’s are monitored with extra caution and a critical element of the post-operative process involves regular visits to your skin cancer specialist. In cases where the SCC does return, they will most commonly do so within the first 2 years of the initial removal. For a recurring tumour, your doctor may elect to use a different treatment method.
It’s a well-known fact that Australia is the driest continent on Earth, receiving high amounts of intense sunlight, all year round. For this reason, it’s extremely important that people implement a list of sun smart strategies when venturing outside. These include:
- Always try to minimise your sun exposure between the hottest hours of the day; 10 AM – 4 PM
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and (ideally) sunglasses with UV-protective lenses
- Do not use tanning beds
- Use sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 15 (50 is recommended)
- Always apply sun cream to your body, approximately half an hour before you head outside and again every 2 hours thereafter or immediately after you’ve been in the water
- Always keep infants out of direct sunlight
- Aim to see a skin specialist at least once a year, for a skin check. (your frequency of visits should be based on the amount of time you spend outdoors, your skin complexion and your past skin cancer history)
Contact Skin Clinic Robina
Squamous Cell Carcinoma can be treated successfully when detected early. If you have noticed the sudden appearance of an unusual mark or sore on your skin that refuses to heal, we strongly advise you to come in and have your skin examined by one of our trained professionals. Likewise, if it’s been a while since you last had a skin check – or if you haven’t ever had one at all, arrange for an appointment with us today.