Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a cancer that develops in the squamous cells of the skin. Squamous cells are in the tissue that is the surface of the skin, but they are also found in the lining of any hollow organs in the body, and even in the respiratory and digestive tracts. Though SCC usually occurs on the skin, it can occur on any of the above that contain squamous cells.
Though SCC is not considered to be the danger that melanoma skin cancer is, people still die every year due to this diagnosis if it spreads to lymph nodes. However, it is highly curable if treated properly. Therefore, if there is any change in skin appearance, especially a bump or red, scaly patch that does not go away, a dermatologist visit should be scheduled.
Type of SCC
Bowen's disease is one of the more common types of SCC. It looks like a rough dry patch. It can be mistaken for a common rash or even a fungus, so a dermatologist would need to examine in order to confirm or rule out SCC.
Another type of SCC
Keratoacanthoma is another common type of SCC. This looks like a lump that forms very quickly. It has a dry core. It often can be thought to be a boil or cyst. It, too, must be ruled out by a dermatological exam. Usually these SCCs need to be confirmed by biopsy.
Actinic keratoses (AK) is sometimes considered a type of SCC, though it really is more of a pre-cancer. AK looks like rough, red bumps that are often very tender and uncomfortable. It is treated as SCC due to its likelihood of transforming to cancer when left alone.
Other types of SCC
Actinic cheilitis is a type that has not yet gone deeper into the skin. It is usually on the lower lip and is red and scaly, making the border between lip and skin blurred. Another type is called Bowenoid papulosis. This presents as genital warts that look like Bowen's disease under a microscope, but actually behave like warts.
The best treatment for SCC is prevention. The primary preventative tool is to avoid sunburns, use sun screen, and do regular skin checks for changes. Once diagnosed, however, there are effective treatments. One is called curettage and desiccation. The carcinoma is cut out and then an electrical current is applied to control bleeding and kill the remaining cells. Other options are radiation therapy, surgical removal, cryosurgery (freezing the carcinoma), and topical creams designed to attack cancer cells.