SolveYourProblem Article Series: Skin Cancer
Help Me Understand Skin Cancer



Squamous Cell Carcinomas (Skin Cancer)
- Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

The second most common type of skin cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma. It concerns the older cells that have been pushed to the surface of the epidermis by the continuous healthy growth of basal cells deep within the skin.

This type of skin cancer is the result of some damage occurring to the underlying skin cells and slowly a lump or tumor will develop right under the skin. It seems to happen most often on the face, perhaps near the lower lip, on the ears, or on the hands. It can manifest itself as a bump that is thickened, scaly, red, or crusty. It could resemble a wart. If it occurs on the rim of the ear or the lip it seems to become more aggressive in its growth.

This also seems to be a cancer that affects more men than women and occurs more often with individuals who are fair-skinned and who are older that sixty years of age. However, it can affect anyone who lives in a warmer climate or whose work and/or play keep them outdoors in the sun a great deal. However, for some reason it is a cancer that tends to be less invasive if it is found on skin that is sun-damaged by sun exposure than if it is found on a part of the body that does not normally get the same exposure to the sun.

The causes of squamous cell carcinoma can include such carcinogenic sources such as: the accumulated lifetime exposure to the suns harmful rays, a reaction to treatments for psoriasis that includes using Psoralen or Ultraviolet A radiation, exposure to radiation from radiotherapy, chemicals such as arsenic, the human papilloma virus, and smoking.

Some genetic factors can also play a role in causing squamous cell carcinoma if the individual inherits the DNA defect called xeroderma pigmentosa wherein the cells have difficulty repairing themselves. Or they have very little pigment coloring such as in albinism that leaves them extremely sensitive to the sun.

Other problem areas are if a person has wounds from an injury or other thermal type burn that refuses to heal well, or if they are more vulnerable due to taking anti-rejection drugs after a transplant and their immune system is greatly lowered.

As with basal cell carcinoma this cancer is treated according to the location, size and grade of the tumor or lesion. The age and health of the patient is also considered. The treatment consists basically of surgical options. Simple excision may be used if the area is small and has not spread.

If the carcinoma is larger, on or near sensitive areas such as an eyelid, has been left untreated for a long time, or is in danger of recurring the doctor may opt to use what is called the Moh's Technique which means that he will slowly remove the lesion or tumor by slicing it in layers. He or she will do this until they are certain to have gotten all the tumor and they have reached healthy tissue.

At times the physician may feel that radiation is needed to be certain that any surrounding cancer cells are killed or it may be necessary if the lymph nodes are at risk. It may also help with larger tumors and be a replacement for surgery if the patient is unable or unwilling to accept it.

In some cases where the cancer may have spread to other parts of the body it will be necessary to include chemotherapy to kill the radical cells.

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