Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that develops in a type of flat-shaped cell that lines the skin and other organs. The most common location where squamous cell carcinoma develops is the skin, usually in areas that are frequently exposed to sunlight. Although less common, squamous cell carcinoma can also grow on the lips, in the mouth, or in the lungs. Cancers form when a change (mutation) in DNA causes certain cells to grow out of control, sometimes forming a lump or a tumor. Some of these cancerous cells can break off and spread to other parts of the body where they will continue to grow (metastasis).
Squamous cell carcinoma most commonly occurs in adults between the ages of 40 and 60, although it can be found in all age groups. Factors that increase the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma include prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light and fair skin. Having an organ transplant can also increase the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, as medications taken after surgery can decrease the body’s ability to protect itself from damage.
The most common symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin include scaly, red skin patches and unexplained bleeding in areas affected by tumor growth. Other signs include the formation of white ulcers in the mouth and sun-exposed areas. Diagnosis is usually made with a combination of a physical exam, imaging studies, blood tests, and other laboratory studies. Diagnosis may require a doctor to take a biopsy, or sample, of the tissue to look at under a microscope in order to determine if the cells are growing in an abnormal way.
Treatment for squamous cell carcinoma depends on many factors such as how large the cancer is and if it has spread to other areas of the body. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups are also available for more resources and information.