SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA
Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that causes the scale shaped cells in the epidermis (upper layer) of the skin to grow too fast and become tumorous. Sun exposure causes damage to cell DNA which makes the squamous cells proliferate abnormally. These lesions are very common in fair skinned individuals – about half of whom develop one or more tumors by the age of 65. Smoking increases the risk of developing this form of cancer by about 50%. Tanning bed use is another significant risk factor.
Actinic keratoses, the precancerous lesions that may eventually develop into squamous cell cancer, often begin showing up after age 40. They generally appear as scaly patches on the skin that may turn red, ooze, and crust over. Areas of the body that are exposed to the sun (upper extremities, face, scalp, and ears) are the most common sites for squamous cell carcinoma. This cancer rarely spreads to other areas of the body. But, if it does metastasize, it may be fatal. Even tumors that are confined to the epidermis can destroy significant areas of skin if they are not removed early on. The success rate for treatment is very high (about 95%) with early intervention.
- A six week course of Aldara (imiquimod) cream or 5-Flourouracil may be used to eradicate cancer cells in the epidermis.
- Tumors may be scraped off and the treatment site cauterized with a procedure called electrodessication and curettage.
- The carcinoma may be surgically excised or removed by Mohs surgery for an even higher cure rate. If the tumor is small, this may be as simple as a shave removal biopsy procedure that leaves just a small scar
- Lesions may be frozen off with liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery)
Laser resurfacing and medium depth chemical peels are other options for removing multiple skin tumors. Although these procedures are not covered by insurance when they are done purely for cosmetic purposes, they may be covered if they are done to treat squamous cell carcinoma.
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