Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer. It’s usually found on areas of the body damaged by UV rays from the sun or tanning beds. Sun-exposed skin includes the head, neck, ears, lips, arms, legs, and hands.
SCC is a fairly slow-growing skin cancer. Unlike other types of skin cancer, it can spread to the tissues, bones, and nearby lymph nodes, where it may become hard to treat. When caught early, it’s easy to treat.
Note: Separate PDQ summaries on Skin Cancer Prevention, Skin Cancer Treatment, and Levels of Evidence for Cancer Screening and Prevention Studies are also available.
The only widely proposed screening procedure for skin cancer is visual examination of the skin, including both self-examination and clinical examination.
In asymptomatic populations, the effect of visual skin examination on mortality from nonmelanomatous skin cancers is unknown. Further, the evidence...
SCC usually begins as a dome-shaped bump or a red, scaly patch of skin. It’s usually rough and crusty, and can bleed easily when scraped. Large growths may itch or hurt. It may also pop through scars or chronic skin sores, so check for any changes and report them to your doctor.
How It's Diagnosed
Your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist who specializes in skin conditions. He will ask about your medical history, your history of severe sunburns or indoor tanning, any pain or symptoms you're having, and when the spot first appeared.
You'll have a physical exam to check the size, shape, color, and texture of the spot. The dermatologist will also look for other spots on your body and feel your lymph nodes to make sure they aren’t bigger or harder than normal. If your doctor thinks a bump looks questionable, he'll remove a sample of the spot (a skin biopsy) to send to a lab for testing.
Squamous cell carcinoma can usually be treated with minor surgery that can be done in a doctor’s office or hospital clinic. Depending on the size and location of the SCC, your doctor may choose to use any of the following techniques to remove it: