Skin cancer (squamous cell)

Squamous cell skin cancer is often described as looking like a crusty lump on the skin. It is known to be quite painful and in most cases will get larger over time. There is no way that this skin lump will go away or be healed without treatment. Surgery is the mainstay of treatment for this cancer and in most cases it offers complete cure. This article looks at the latest information and research around Squamous cell skin cancer and teaches you how to recognise and deal with this scary and common condition.

What is it?

Just like the name implies, this cancer begins by affecting the cells in your skin known as squamous cells. These are the cells that sit in the top layer of your skin, just below the surface. They can be damaged if you have too much exposure to the sun. Unfortunately the cells that are damaged by the sun do not fall of like the rest of the skin does and will eventually begin to multiply. The cells that multiply may eventually form a lump and this lump may form a tumor. If the tumor is not treated then it can damage surrounding tissues and spread to the other parts of your body. This type of skin cancer is not the most serious, however if it left untreated then it can spread and become very serious. There are certain types of skin that is more likely to form these cancers and this includes fair skin and those who spend lots of time in the sun.


In most cases the main symptom of this form of cancer is that you will notice a lump on the skin that grows and looks quite dissimilar to the surrounding skin. This lump tends to be raised, painful to touch, crusted, and may bleed when you touch it. These cancers can grow very quickly and so you may notice a fast growing lump on your skin. They can vary in size from only 1/16 of an inch across to about 2 inches across. They can form in any area of your skin, although they are certainly more prevalent on areas of the body that get the most sun. You must check these areas such as the face, lower legs and forearms carefully. If you are concerned about any lumps that you have found on your body then you should see your doctor. If this doctor thinks that this is cancer then they may remove all or some of the cancer and send it off to be tested. If you have been to your doctor and they suspect that it could be a Squamous cell skin cancer then you will most likely be referred to a dermatologist who specialises in skin.


If you suffer from this type of cancer then you will certainly require surgery in order to remove it. However if all of the cancer was removes when the doctor sent the piece off for removal then you will not need any more removed. In most cases surgery offers a complete cure.

Surgery will usually be done with local anesthetic that will numb the area surrounding the Squamous cell skin cancer, so that you will not feel a thing. Your surgeon will then cut out the Squamous cell skin cancer as well as some of the normal looking skin surrounding it to ensure that all of the cancer is removed so that it will not come back. More skin is taken if your Squamous cell skin cancer is deep into the skin. Many people have thin Squamous cell skin cancer that are very small and doctors will not need to remove as much skin. Thicker Squamous cell skin cancer will require more skin to be removed; however your doctor will discuss this with you before the operation. The incision or wound will be closed with sutures in order to leave as small of a scar as possible. In some cases so much skin has to be removed that you may require some skin from other places in your body in order to fill in the space, this is called a graft.

There is a newer form of surgery known as Mohs micrographic surgery and you may be offered this if you have a slow growing Squamous cell skin cancer, or if the Squamous cell skin cancer is on your neck or face. This surgery focuses on removing all of the cancer cells whilst at the same time attempting to save as much skin as possible. After the surgeon has taken an initial Squamous cell skin cancer out they will then take a very small piece of skin from around the tumour and look at it under a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells left there. If there are still cancer cells there then they will remove another piece and check it again. The operation will stop when they find that there are only normal cells in the layer of skin that they have removed.

Radiotherapy is another option of treatment if all of the tumor cannot be removed by surgery. This form of therapy will kill any cancer cells that might be left in the surrounding skin. This may also be a good option for those tumors that are hard to treat with surgery alone. Sometimes the tumor can grow in awkward places such as along nerves and in this case radiotherapy may be a good option. This treatment usually lasts for several weeks and each treatment takes about 30 minutes. This is not painful treatment, however following treatment you may get a rash with red skin and blisters on the treatment site.

What can I do?

You should always avoid the sun wherever possible and cover up if you need to be in it. Use protective sunscreens with a SPF factor of higher than 15 and ensure that you apply it properly. You should always reapply sunscreen after going in the water or after 60 minutes in the sun.


In most cases surgery will cure you and you will be rid of the tumor. However in one out of every hundred people with this cancer they get spread to other parts of the body. In this case the cancer becomes harder to cure and so you should always seek treatment early when you notice an unusual lump or bump on your skin.

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