A squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer. There are two main types of skin cancer: melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), and the second most common type of skin cancer in the UK after Basal Cell Carcinoma.
The most important cause is too much exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or other sources. This can cause the DNA of skin cells to change. Sometimes this alteration in DNA allows the skin cells to grow out of control and develop into an SCC.
Fair skinned people who have been exposed to ultraviolet light for long periods of time are at most risk. There are other conditions which also predispose to squamous cell carcinoma. For example, people who are immunosuppressed whether through disease or from taking immunosuppressant drugs are at increased risk.
SCC can occur on any part of the body, but they are more common on sun exposed sites such as the head, ears, neck and back of the hands. They can vary in their appearance, ranging from an ulcer to a ‘horn’ protruding from the skin. Commonly they appear as a scaly or crusty raised patch of skin.
Mr Abood will be able to establish the diagnosis by taking a small piece of the abnormal skin (an incisional biopsy), or the whole area (an excision biopsy), will be removed using a local anaesthetic and sent to a pathologist to be examined under the microscope. The results will usually be available within a week to ten days.
The vast majority of SCCs are low risk skin cancers and can be cured. A small number can recur locally and/or spread (metastasise) to the lymph nodes or to other parts of the body.
Surgery is usually the recommended treatment. This involves removing the SCC with a margin of normal skin around it, using a local anaesthetic. The skin is then closed with stitches or sometimes a skin graft or local flap is needed.