Skin Cancer: Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer in the UK, and 25,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year. SCCs are a type of non-melanoma skin cancer and thankfully, in most cases treatment is relatively quick and straightforward.
However, SCCs can sometimes grow fast and spread to other parts of the body - so early detection is important to avoid more serious complications.
What does a squamous cell carcinoma look like?
Most squamous cell carcinomas appear as a scaly or crusty area of skin with a red, inflamed base. They can also be tender, or bleed, and they can also occur as an ulcer.
SCCs can appear on any part of your body but are common in areas that have been most exposed to the sun, such as your head, ears, neck and the back of your hands. It’s always a good idea to cover up or wear a hat when out in the sun, particularly if you suffer from hair loss.
Squamous cell carcinomas can vary in appearance, so if you have noticed any changes or unusual lesions on your skin it’s important to get them examined by a specialist, in order to get an accurate diagnosis.
What causes squamous cell carcinomas?
Squamous cells are the thin flat cells that are found in the outermost layer of the skin. Frequent and intense exposure to UV light from the sun or from sunbeds can cause changes in the DNA of these cells, leading them to multiply dangerously and develop into a cancerous lesion.
However, UV light is not always responsible for squamous cell carcinomas. They can also occur if your skin has been damaged in other ways - through radiation treatment, burns and chronic ulcers.
Who is at risk of developing squamous cell carcinomas?
If you are pale skinned and burn easily, or have spent a lot of time outdoors, through work or hobbies, you are more at risk. Other groups that are particularly susceptible to SCCs include:
- People who have used sunbeds, or spent long periods sunbathing.
- Those suffering from immunodeficiency, due to conditions such as HIV, or through medical treatments – such as kidney transplants.
- Individuals with actinic keratosis or Bowen’s disease - skin conditions that appear as flaky red patches that won’t heal. If neglected, they can develop into SCCs, so it’s always a good idea to get them assessed and treated if necessary.
What should you do if you’re worried about squamous cell carcinoma?
Most cases of SCC are relatively simple to treat, but it is important to diagnose the disease early, as it can become dangerous and spread to other parts of the body. If you have noticed any of the symptoms of a squamous cell carcinoma or signs of actinic keratosis or Bowen’s disease, you should make an appointment with your GP or a dermatologist as soon as you can.
Our team of Consultant Dermatologists include some of the UK’s leading skin cancer specialists, and they offer highly skilled diagnosis and cutting-edge treatment for all types of skin cancer. They will usually be able to diagnose a SCC from a clinical consultation, by examining your skin, and if necessary, through a simple skin biopsy.
Can squamous cell carcinomas be cured?
Treatment for a squamous cell carcinoma is usually fast and highly successful. The most common procedure is a simple surgical excision to remove the cancer, along with some of the surrounding healthy skin. The area is then closed with a few stitches or a small skin graft if needed. Other treatments include curettage, which involves scraping away the cancer and sealing the area with heat.
If your cancer has spread you may need more complex treatment, including surgery and radiotherapy. Other specialist treatments such as chemotherapy may also be required, and our dedicated team of Consultant Dermatologists will be on hand to support you during every stage of the process.
We understand how being diagnosed with cancer can be extremely worrying - our specialists have many years’ experience of successfully treating skin cancer and will guide you on the best treatment plan, according to the type and size of your skin lesion and your individual medical history.
Visiting our clinic
If you are worried about any changes to your skin and would like to find out more, or make an appointment with one of our Consultant Dermatologists, please call us on 020 7244 4200.