Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. Squamous cells are the primary type cells that make the outermost layer of the skin called epidermis. Cancerous cells develop from these cells. Its symptoms are a progressive, persistent, red scaly, crusted plaque or slightly raised. These may appear anywhere on the surface of the skin or mucosal, for example in the mouth, the rim of the ear, balding scalp, arms, hands, legs, lower lip, face and neck. These cells, when examined under the microscope, are observed to have proliferated through the thickness of the outer layer of the skin, epidermis, but not beyond. In situ, squamous cell carcinoma is usually caused by exposure to the sun for a longer time. It can also be caused due to prolonged exposure to arsenic, which is known as Bowen disease. The condition can become deadly if left untreated. The disease is mostly caused due to long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. The damage can worsen on intense exposure in the summer months and the UV produced by indoor tanning devices. According to some experts, indoor tanning contributes to a rising number of cases among young women. Although genetics has been considered among skin cancer, there are various other causes of this disease.
- Ultraviolet light can cause carcinoma, or skin cancer, and wrinkling. The doctor advised avoiding the sunlight and tanning beds. Instead, they recommend using water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or more. Avoid self-tanning products on exposed skin. Patients should check the skin for changes or growth that may show signs of carcinoma.
- PUVA (psoralen plus ultraviolet A) and X-rays treatments are the forms of Therapeutic radiation that may cause melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These are skin cancers. Depending on various factors, such as medical status, skin pigmentation and a dose of radiation received, the patients of therapeutic radiation are more vulnerable to develop carcinoma.
- Immunosuppressant drugs cause skin cancer as a weakened immune system escalates the risk of contracting carcinomas. Patients who undergo a transplant of an organ take medications to stop organ rejection, which then develops squamous cell carcinoma. Sometimes, it happens over the course of their lives. The patients with a heart transplant are at more risk due to the requirement of taking a higher dosage of organ rejection medications.
Usually, it is easy to find squamous cell carcinoma early, when a dermatologist performs a thorough skin examination. In case of new or unusual growths, changes in size, colour or shape of an existing spot, a regular examination is the key to find and treat these diseases early. If you also think that you have acquired symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma, or are suspicious about a patch of skin, you should immediately consult a primary care physician. Some of the common symptoms of skin cancer include a sore and a new spot or growth that increases in size and does not heal in two months. Additional signs of this disease include:
- Flat reddish patch growing slowly
- Lump growing with a scaly, crusty or rough surface
This disease may also develop as a flat area that might differ from normal skin. So, it becomes important to discuss with a doctor. These types of carcinoma are mostly found in areas that are exposed to the sun, like the back of the hands, ear, lip, face and neck. These also tend to grow in other areas, such as in scars, or skin sores, or the genital region. If you ever incur with any of such spots or growths or see anything unusual, then consult a specialist. The disease is easier to treat if symptoms are found at an early stage. In some patients with this disease, wounds can be very painful.
Your doctor would want to know the causes of squamous cell carcinoma, before proceeding for staging and treatment. He may refer you to a skin specialist (dermatologist). There, you will then be asked about your medical history, the condition of your skin, history of indoor tanning or severe sunburns, any pain-like symptoms if you are having and the first appearance of the spot. The doctor will then ask you for a physical examination in order to check the shape, size, texture and colour of the spot. He will also feel your lymph nodes and look for other spots on your body so as to make sure that they are not in the worst condition. If the bump he had looked at, appears to be questionable then he will take a sample of the skin spot to perform a skin biopsy and send it to a laboratory for testing.
Self Examination- A person should have sufficient knowledge so that he/she can check their skin on regular basis and monitor for any changes that may have appeared, indicate growth of abnormal cell and are early signs of the disease. There is the possibility that tumours can be present on any area of the body that includes soles, palms, nails, ears, back and scalp. A regular monitoring once in every month will let to take early call for further consultation of a doctor.
Doctor’s Examination- Even after self-examination it is necessary to consult a health professional for a proper diagnosis. He will initially ask for family history related to this disease so as to be able to measure their risk of acquiring skin cancer. After some additional examinations, like exposure to sunlight, the appearance of particular spots and changes in its size, shape or colour, the doctor proceeds for a skin biopsy. It is a lab test done for the sample of a skin removed from the patient so that the properties of cancerous growth can be detected.
It is important to know what is the preventive measure for squamous cell carcinoma . These include the elimination of smoking, applying sunscreen before stepping outdoor, avoiding exposure to the sun at high peak times, using a lip balm that contains SPF and wearing hats that are wide-brimmed. Although making adjustments in lifestyle may reduce the risk of this disease, the likelihood of preventing this type of carcinoma eventually depends on risk factors related to health, like skin conditions, white complexion and fair skin. However, the chances of developing cancer can be affected by the choices of lifestyle that you make. Some simple changes in your lifestyle can bring a big difference.
- Using it can put you on a course of collision with cancer. Various types of cancer have been linked to smoking habit. These include cancer of mouth, lungs, throat, bladder, larynx, cervix, kidney and pancreas. Cancer of pancreas and an oral cavity occurs due to chewing tobacco. Even exposure to second-hand tobacco use, such as smoking, might put you at the risk of lung cancer. So, avoid using any type of tobacco. There are other products available that your doctor may suggest assisting you to quit tobacco.
- There are various stages of preventing skin cancer. Stay away from the midday sun, that is, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., as the rays of the sun are strongest during this time. Use the substantial amount of sunscreen and stay under the shade as much as possible when you are outdoors. Wear loose-fitting, lightly woven clothes that cover a maximum of your body. Go for dark or bright colours as these reflect more ultraviolet radiation that bleached or pastel cotton type. Tanning beds and sunlamps should be avoided as using these could damage as natural sunlight.
The treatment for this disease varies depending upon the signs of squamous cell carcinoma, its size, extent and location of the disease. The patients may be given a unique sequenced treatment, that is, surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. But most treatments are the combination of two or all of the three treatments. The treatment would include:
- Removal of the cancerous cells and the surrounding tissues are done by surgery and this method helps to reduce the time required for healing. It also minimizes the risk of infection after surgery.
- In combination with chemotherapy of surgery, radiation therapy may be used. While being cautious about surrounding organs and healthy tissues, the advanced radiation therapy uses image guidance before and during the treatment in order to target the tumours.
- This type of carcinoma can be treated by chemotherapy with drugs that destroy cancer cells. It can be either in a specific area or throughout the whole body.
Anything that assists a normal skin cell to grow abnormally can potentially cause squamous cell carcinoma. There are several measures of prevention that a person needs to follow in order to lower the risk of getting this disease. While some causes remain unknown, there are other certain reasons, such as environment or lifestyle, which triggers the disease. It has been observed that this type of cancer and its treatment can cause several complications. An aggressive squamous cell carcinoma may lead to having an increased risk in conditions where the disease is:
- Large or deep
- Occurs in a person who has week immune system, for instance, a person who takes anti-rejection medications after the transplant of an organ, or someone with advanced staged leukaemia
- Includes mucous membranes, for example, lips
You would find a lot of information about squamous cell carcinoma and its treatment on the internet, or may hear from people around you, which could prove to be wrong and misleading. Mentioned below are the true facts behind some cancer myths.
Myth #1: The treatment of cancer is worse than the disease itself
The truth is cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, can cause serious and unpleasant side effects. But many drugs and treatments have come up with recent advances that are much better than the past methods. This results in reduced symptoms of vomiting, nausea, tissue damage and hair loss. Also, palliative care is an important part of caring cancer, as it can help the patient feel comfortable at any stage of illness. Getting both the treatments at the same time may lessen the severity of the above symptoms and improve the quality of life.
Myth #2: Squamous cell carcinomas are contagious
The fact is, there are some cancers that are caused due to bacteria and viruses spread from person to person. But it should be remembered that while the bacteria and viruses that cause cancer can spread, the cancers it causes cannot be spread from person to person.
Myth #3: You are prone to get skin cancer if you have a family history
The fact is, although a family history of cancer may put you at the risk of acquiring the disease, it is not yet a full proof prediction. Among 4 out of every 10 cancer patients can be prevented from developing cancer by making simple changes in lifestyle, like maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercising, avoiding tobacco and heavy alcohol consumption.
If you ever suspect of having cancerous symptoms then you should immediately rush for a medical check-up by health care professionals. A regular self-examination and screening for skin cancer at an early stage can help you to possibly heal the disease. Most likely the treatments at the initial stage are successful. Consult your specialist about screening schedules and other diagnosing methods. It is important to take preventive measures of squamous cell carcinoma disease in your own hands. So don’t ignore your symptoms and consult a doctor soon before it is too late. Untreated skin disease can damage the healthy tissue nearby, extend to the lymph nodes or other organs and becomes fatal. To prevent yourself from acquiring this painful disease it is necessary to be in regular check up with your specialist and do as he says. Avoiding certain habits and bringing change in lifestyle will benefit you for a longer period of time. You should protect yourself from the things that may trigger the chances of incurring with this disease. Consulting your doctor will educate you regarding this disease and let you take preventive measure beforehand.
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