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Squamous Cell Carcinoma


What is squamous cell carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a type of skin cancer that starts in the outer layer of the skin. It is a slow growing type of skin cancer that usually does not spread.

What increases my risk for SCC?

  • You are 60 years or older.
  • You have fair skin or light hair.
  • You have a history of long-term exposure to the sun or ultraviolet (UVA or UVB) rays from tanning beds.
  • You have been exposed to chemicals such as coal tars, arsenic, or radium.
  • You have other skin disorders, such as actinic keratosis, radiation dermatitis, or burn scars.

What are the signs and symptoms of SCC?

SCC is most often found on the face, ears, hands, or arms. You may have the following:

  • A sore on the skin that does not heal
  • A small, red, or scaly bump that crusts over
  • An area of skin that itches, bleeds easily, or is painful

How is SCC diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your skin. He will take a biopsy (small sample of skin is removed). The sample will be sent to a lab and checked for abnormal cells and cancer.

How is SCC treated?

  • Cryosurgery: This is a procedure that uses a chemical, called liquid nitrogen, to freeze and kill a small area of tissue. The tissue dies and later falls off.
  • Mohs surgery: This surgery removes only skin with cancer cells and as little healthy tissue as possible. Thin layers of the tumor are scraped off one at a time until all the cancer cells are removed.
  • Excision: Your healthcare provider may cut an area around the tumor to remove it.
  • Electrodesiccation and curettage: The skin tumor is scraped and then heated with an electric probe to kill the cancer cells.
  • Laser therapy: A narrow beam of light is used to kill the cancer cells.
  • Topical chemotherapy: This is given as a lotion or cream to put directly on the skin cancer to kill cancer cells.
  • Radiation: This treatment uses x-rays or gamma rays to treat cancer. Radiation kills cancer cells and may stop the cancer from spreading. It may be used for hard-to-treat areas, such as the eyelids, the tip of the nose, or the ear.

What are the risks of SCC?

You may get an infection or bleed more than expected after surgery. If the cancer is not treated, it may spread to other parts of your body. Once cancer spreads, it becomes more difficult to treat, and other serious medical problems can develop.

How can I prevent getting skin cancer again?

  • Wear sunscreen when outdoors: Use sunscreen with an SPF (sun protectant factor) of at least 15 and UVA and UVB protection. Reapply after swim or sweat. If you need to be in the sun, wear a hat and long-sleeved shirts and pants to cover your skin.
  • Stay out of the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM: This is when the sun is the strongest and most damaging to your skin.
  • Do not use tanning booths: These can damage your skin as much as the sun.
  • Examine your skin monthly: Watch for growths or moles that change size, shape, or color.

Where can I find more information?

  • American Cancer Society
    250 Williams Street
    Atlanta , GA 30303
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address:

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a new growth or a mole that changes size, shape, or color.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have trouble thinking clearly.
  • You have shortness of breath.
  • You have chest pain.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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