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How to Spot the Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma


Skin cancer is unfortunately very common in both males and females of any age due to our constant exposure to sunlight. One of these skin cancers is called squamous cell carcinoma. Are you at risk? The dermatologists at Dermatology & Mohs Surgery Institute can help diagnose, treat, and give you tips on how to prevent further effects from this condition.


What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. It develops in the squamous cells, which make up the middle and outer layers of the skin. It is not life-threatening, but left untreated it can grow larger and spread to other parts of the body.


What Causes Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

This type of skin cancer occurs when flat, thin squamous cells develop mutations in their DNA. Whereas normal cells would tend to die, these mutations alert the squamous cells to grow out of control. The DNA mutations are caused by extensive exposure to sunlight, including tanning beds and ultraviolet lamps. Other factors that increase the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma are fair skin, a history of sunburns or precancerous skin lesions, or a weakened immune system.


Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

If you believe you may be at risk of squamous cell carcinoma, there are a variety of symptoms to look out for.

Signs and symptoms often appear on frequently exposed skin on the scalp, back of the hands, ears, and lips. If you spot a firm red nodule, a flat sore with a scaly crust, a new sore or raised area on an old scar, or a scaly patch on your lip or inside your mouth, you are likely experiencing symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma.

If you begin to experience any of these symptoms it is important to get in touch with a dermatologist. Untreated squamous cell carcinoma can destroy healthy tissue, or spread to the lymph nodes or other organs. The condition may become more aggressive if the cancer is large, deep, involves mucus, or occurs in someone with a weakened immune system.


Fortunately, squamous cell carcinoma can be completely removed. Curettage and electrodessication (C and E) removes the surface of the skin cancer by searing the base of the cancer with an electric needle. Another treatment option is laser therapy to help vaporize the growth. Cryosurgery freezes the cancer cells and removes the surface of the skin cancer. Photodynamic therapy is an option that combines photosensitizing drugs and light to treat small areas of skin cancer. Treatments for larger skin cancers include simple excision, Mohs surgery, or radiation.


The best form of protection against squamous cell carcinoma is avoiding the sun in the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are the strongest. You should also wear sunscreen year-round, wear protective clothing to prevent UV damage, and avoiding tanning beds. Additionally, getting regular skin checkups will help spot damage and allow you to begin treatment quickly.

If you live in and around Bloomington, Illinois or the surrounding areas, meet with a dermatologist at Dermatology & Mohs Surgery Institute for a diagnosis and to begin an appropriate treatment plan.

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