Squamous Cell Carcinoma: A Common and Treatable Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer worldwide, with an increasing incidence rate over the years. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most prevalent type of skin cancer, accounting for approximately 20% of all cases. However, the good news is that SCC is highly treatable when detected early, making awareness and early detection crucial.
Squamous cell carcinoma derives from the squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that make up the outermost layer of the skin. It usually develops on sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the face, neck, ears, hands, and arms. Chronic sun exposure is the primary risk factor for SCC, making individuals who work outdoors, have fair skin, or a history of sunburns more susceptible.
Although SCC is more aggressive than its counterpart, basal cell carcinoma, it tends to grow slowly, allowing ample opportunity for early detection and treatment. Common signs and symptoms of SCC include a persistent red, scaly patch; a raised bump with a depressed center; a sore that doesn’t heal or recurs; or a rough, scaly lesion resembling a wart.
The first step in diagnosing SCC is a thorough skin examination by a dermatologist, who may perform a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. A biopsy involves removing a small sample of the suspicious area, which is then examined under a microscope for the presence of cancerous cells. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, the dermatologist will determine the appropriate treatment plan based on the stage, size, and location of the tumor.
Treatment options for squamous cell carcinoma depend on various factors and may include:
1. Surgical excision: This is the most common treatment approach, where the tumor is removed along with a margin of healthy tissue. Mohs micrographic surgery, a specialized technique that minimizes the removal of healthy tissue, is often used for areas where preserving aesthetics and function are essential.
2. Radiation therapy: This treatment is reserved for cases where surgery may be difficult or for larger tumors. Radiation beams are targeted at the tumor to destroy cancer cells.
3. Topical medications: For early-stage SCC or in cases where surgery is not possible, topical medications like imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) can be used. These creams stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells or directly kill them.
4. Cryotherapy: In cases where SCC is small and superficial, freezing the tumor with liquid nitrogen may be an appropriate treatment option.
Once treatment is completed, regular follow-up visits with a dermatologist are essential to monitor for recurrence or new skin cancer developments. Additionally, adopting sun-protective measures, such as using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, seeking shade, and avoiding excessive sun exposure, can greatly reduce the risk of developing SCC.
While squamous cell carcinoma is a common and potentially serious condition, early detection and timely treatment can significantly improve outcomes. Regular self-examinations of the skin, along with annual professional dermatological checks, are vital for spotting any suspicious changes and seeking medical attention promptly. Remember, prevention and early intervention are crucial in combating skin cancer, so prioritize your skin health and embrace a sun-safe lifestyle.