What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. It can occur anywhere, but is most often found on the face and arms and other areas that receive a lot of sun. While squamous cell carcinoma is fatal in only a small number of cases, it can spread to the blood stream and lymph nodes, posing a more significant risk. It can invade surrounding tissues and cause disfigurement if left untreated. Skin cancer is a highly treatable and curable kind of cancer when found in its first stages, so early detection is extremely important.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma originates in the outer layer of skin in epidermal cells called squamous cells. In its early, superficial stage, it is also known as Bowen’s Disease. Sunlight is the key contributing environmental factor, but light skin, hair and eyes also play a role. Exposure to radiation or certain chemicals, immune system disorders, burns, scars and sites of chronic inflammation and infections are also risk factors. SCC can look like a rough, reddish, scaly patch, an open sore with a raised border or a wart.
Since exposure to sun is a factor in so many cases of Squamous Cell Carcinoma, one way to protect yourself is to limit your time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays reach their peak. Always wear sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 30 with protection against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays and reapply it every couple of hours. Wear protective clothing and sunglasses and stay in the shade when possible. Avoid tanning beds and be careful around anything that can reflect the sun’s rays, such as water, sand and snow.


squamous cell carcinoma

Check Yourself

You can also help protect yourself by examining your own skin once a month. It is often difficult to diagnose skin cancer just by appearance. This is why it’s so important for you to check your own skin and notify your doctor of anything you find. Examine yourself from head to toe, using a mirror when necessary. Look for any changes to existing moles and freckles, sores that take more than 3 weeks to heal, spots that hurt or itch continuously, growths that have increased in size or are larger than a pencil eraser, irregular outlines or changes in color or texture. If you note any changes in your skin, see your dermatologist. Know Your Spots >>


Diagnosis and Treatment

Your doctor will take a biopsy of your skin to have it diagnosed. This is most commonly done under local anesthesia and involves removing the abnormality and a thin layer of the surrounding skin for examination under a microscope. After examining the sample, a Cockerell Dermatopathology dermatopathologist will provide your doctor with a definitive diagnosis.

Common treatments for Squamous Cell Carcinoma include surgical removal of the area. This is often done in the doctor’s office under local anesthesia and may require stitches for a week or two. Mohs Micrographic Surgery is an advanced type of surgical removal, often chosen for recurring tumors and lesions in highly visible areas such as the face. Electrosurgery and radiation therapy may also be recommended. Your general health, age, and the subtype, location and size of the lesion will also be taken into consideration when formulating your treatment plan.


What You Need to Know

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is a highly treatable and curable skin cancer, when diagnosed and treated early
  • Avoid sun and wear sunscreen to reduce your chances of getting Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Checking your own skin once a month for abnormalities and changes can lead to early detection
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is diagnosed through a biopsy and your doctor will discuss treatment options with you

Check Yourself

You can also help protect yourself by examining your own skin once a month. It is often difficult to diagnose skin cancer just by appearance. This is why it’s so important for you to check your own skin and notify your doctor of anything you find. Examine yourself from head to toe, using a mirror when necessary. Look for any changes to existing moles and freckles, sores that take more than 3 weeks to heal, spots that hurt or itch continuously, growths that have increased in size or are larger than a pencil eraser, irregular outlines or changes in color or texture. If you note any changes in your skin, see your dermatologist.

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What is Dermatopathology?

The combination of pathology (using a microscope to identify diseases) and dermatology (diagnosing and treating diseases of the skin, nails and hair) is called dermatopathology. Dermatopathologists are highly trained physicians who examine tissue specimens under a microscope, use the medical information shared by your doctor and consult with him or her as necessary. This personal service and collaboration between your doctor and our dermatopathologists help ensure the most precise, conclusive diagnosis.


About Cockerell Dermatopathology

Cockerell Dermatopathology, located in the heart of Dallas’ medical district, was founded by Dr. Clay J. Cockerell, former president of the American Academy of Dermatology and internationally recognized dermatologist and dermatopathologist.  Cockerell Dermatopathology offers diagnostic excellence and unparalleled service in the evaluation of dermatologic disorders ranging from the routine to the most difficult. To best serve referring clinicians and their patients, Cockerell Dermatopathology continues to invest in the future by implementing advanced technologies within the laboratory. These new technologies produce higher quality slides to diagnose, improves turnaround time on routine cases and allows for quicker deployment of EMR interfaces.  From an academic standpoint, Cockerell Dermatopathology hosts numerous Internet-based continuing education events and has a 14-headed microscope for in-person training sessions. Cockerell Dermatopathology serves more than 800 clinicians from across Texas, the United States and abroad. With an accessible team of board-certified dermatopathologists and a highly trained support staff, Cockerell Dermatopathology’s vision is to treat every specimen as if it came from one of our own family members.

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