Raise Your Awareness of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

November 12, 2012

Raise Your Awareness of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The two most common types of skin cancer are collectively known as nonmelanoma skin cancer but individual are called basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinomo or SCC for short. SCC is the second most common skin cancer, with about 20% of the 1 million diagnosed cases of cancer each year being this type. Squamous cell carcinoma is usually caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. There are a number of factors that can increase the chance of a person developing SCC which include having very fair skin, blonde or red hair, blue or green eyes, a family history of skin cancer, previously received radiation therapy or a history of using indoor tanning machines. Also a weakened immune system or if you have actinic keratoses can increase the risk of SCC. In addition to this rick is increased with age as every time the skin is exposed to UV rays, damage is being caused which builds up over time. As the damage grows so does the risk of skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma reveals itself as a crusty, red or scaly patch on the surface of the skin. Although SCC can develop anywhere on the body it is most common in areas that are regularly exposed to the sun, such as the top of the head, neck, ears and arms. Small lesions can appear in the skin, with a texture similar to sandpaper. These are called actinic keratoses and this can also lead to the development of SCC. Early diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma is essential as when it is caught and treated early, SCC is completely curable. The longer it is left the more likely it is to spread, destroying tissue surrounding the tumour and even to the lymph nodes and internal organs. If you discover any lesion, which looks red or scaly, or a sore that refuses to heal you should have it checked out by a dermatologist immediately.

A biopsy will be performed to confirm squamous cell carcinoma, which involves removing a small amount of tissue to be examined and then the best treatment can be decided. There are a number of surgical and non-surgical options available, which will be chosen from depending on the location and size of the tumour and general health of the patient amongst other factors. Most of the treatments are a simple procedure done in the doctor’s office and usually only require local anaesthesia. Some of the possible treatments include: Simple Surgical Excision

The cancerous tissue and some of the surrounding healthy tissue is removed.

MOHS Micrographic Surgery A specially trained dermatologic surgeon will perform this procedure whereby cancerous tissue will be removed whilst sparing surrounding healthy skin. Electrodessication and Curettage The cancerous tumour is removed by scraping it off and an electric needle is used to burn the base. Cryosurgery Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the tumour. Radiation Therapy High energy X-rays are used to damage or kill the cancerous cells.

Topical Therapy

Medications can be used at home such as imiquimod or 5-flourouracil.

Most patients with squamous cell carcinoma who have caught it before it is able to spread have an 85% and greater chance of being cured. Follow up appointments are essential though as those who have had SCC are more likely to get some type of skin cancer in the future including melanoma. You may need full body skin examinations once a year to check for abnormalities and it is recommended to perform self-examination regularly. If you notice anything strange or changes to your skin, inform your dermatologist immediately.

It is essential to avoid unprotected exposure to the suns UV rays in order to prevent the development of squamous cell carcinoma for people of all ages and skin types. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher to all areas of exposed skin and reapply regularly, and after swimming and sweating. Whenever possible wear long sleeves and pants to avoid exposure to the sun and during the hours when the sun is strongest (10am-4pm) try to stick to the shade. Make sure to protect children as much as you can, keep applying the sun lotion and encourage them to play in the sun. Vitamin D can be obtained through a healthy diet or vitamin supplements, it is not necessary to be obtained through the sun.

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