Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Overview of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Skin cancer is the rapid, abnormal growth of skin cells. As the name indicates, it affects the skin, mostly the areas exposed to the sun. Most skin cancers form in the superficial layer of the skin, the epidermis.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is characterized by the abnormal growth of squamous cells. These cells are located near the skin surface and are continuously shed as new cells form.

DNA damage due to UV exposure or other agents can cause the squamous cells to grow out of control.

 If it is caught early, it is curable. The advanced growth of these cancer cells can be dangerous and deadly. Squamous cell carcinoma can also metastasize.

It is an aggressive form of cancer but is not usually life-threatening. It can occur anywhere on the body that has squamous cells.

Prevalence of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

 20 percent of all skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. It is the second most common skin cancer.  Almost 95 to 98 percent of squamous cell carcinomas can be cured if treated early. The 5-year survival rate is almost 99 percent in early detected cases.

In Pakistan, the prevalence is almost 15 percent. More than 1 million cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year.

Signs and Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Signs and symptoms of SCC include:

  • Persistent scaly, red patch
  • Patches that bleed or have a scaly crust
  • Firm, red nodule
  • Open sores that bleed often
  • Thich, rough skin with wart-like growth
  • Growths with a central depression
  • Itchy patches

Types of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Causes of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This type of cancer like other cancers occurs due to DNA mutations causing the cells to grow out of control. A weakened immune system or prolonged exposure to UV radiation is the usual and common cause of squamous cell carcinoma.


Risk Factors of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • Skin color such as fair skin
  • Tanning beds
  • Sunburn history
  • History of skin cancer or lesions
  • Weak immune system
  • Rare genetic disorders
  • UV exposure
  • Being older
  • Previous Skin Cancer
  • Being male
  • Exposure to certain chemicals i.e., pesticides, coal, tar, and paraffin.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Health Complications

The most common complication related to squamous cell carcinoma is scarring. The treatment of cancer leaves deep scars on the body. It goes so deep that the doctor has to remove the healthy skin along with the tumor. Otherwise, there are high chance of cancer spreading during the time of surgery.



The best way to prevent squamous cell carcinoma is to shield your skin from sunlight every day.


  • Apply sunscreen of broad-spectrum with a minimum of 30 SPF.
  • Reapply the sunscreen after every two hours.
  • Stay in the shade.
  • Wear protective hats and clothing.




A diagnosis is given by:


  • Examining the skin and recording the complete family and personal history
  • A biopsy of the lesion is done to confirm the diagnosis.


Treatment of Squamous Cell Carcinoma | When to Consult a Doctor

Treatment for SCC depends on tumor size, type, location, and depth. Treatment options are as follows:

  1. Freezing

If precancerous lesions are found, and at an early stage, they can be frozen in liquid nitrogen. This method is also known as cryosurgery. 

  1. Excisional Surgery

The cancerous tissue and surrounding healthy skin are excised. This type of treatment can be done for every type of skin cancer.

  1. Electrodesiccation or Curettage

A curette is used to scrape away the layers of cancerous cells. An electric needle destroys the rest of the cancer cells. Also, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the base and edges of the area being treated.

  1. Radiation Therapy

High radiation beams are directed at the cancer cells. This therapy is used at a later stage of cancer and when surgery is not possible.

  1. Chemotherapy

Drugs are administered to kill cancer cells. It is the most painful treatment with aftereffects. 

  1. Photodynamic Therapy

Laser light and drugs are administered in combination to destroy and kill cancer cells.

  1. MOHS Surgery

This surgery is performed in stages in a single visit. The visible tumor is removed along with the surrounding tissue. The tissue is color-coded and checked under the microscope for the remaining cancer cells. If there are any, more tissue is removed, and so on.   

Squamous Cell Carcinoma if properly diagnosed has a high survival rate. Any lesions or growths that present signs of skin cancer are to be immediately consulted with an oncologist