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What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma By Chris Rost

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Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. It’s a disease that affects the squamous cells found in your epidermis. Before we go more in-depth, let’s try to get a better understanding of what cancer is. Cancer is a disease where normal cells start to divide rapidly, and uncontrollably.  As this division takes place, some cells become abnormal. The abnormal cells then start to divide in your tissue, causing tumors, and other serious problems within your body. Now that we understand cancer a little better, let’s take a look at a specific type of cancer, squamous cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma is a form of cancer that is usually seen in parts of the body exposed to the sun. It’s known to spread faster, and to other parts of the body than other forms of skin cancer. The cancer starts in a layer of the skin called the epidermis. The epidermis is the outermost layer of your skin. This layer is what protects you from germs, and infections.  Squamous cell carcinoma starts when your skin absorbs radiation from sunlight, and over time, can damage cells. Those damaged cells begin to reproduce, divide, and eventually can form a tumor in the epidermis.  If caught quickly the tumor can be removed surgically. If it continues to grow it will spread into deeper layers of the skin. The next layer below the epidermis is the dermis.  If it gets to the dermis, then just surgery might not be enough to remove it.  Squamous cells can come in a few different forms, like warts or just a small bump.

Squamous cell carcinoma can start out looking like a bump, a red scaly patch of skin, or even a wart. All of these small blemishes in your skin are located in the epidermis. Just by looking, a doctor can’t tell if it squamous cell or not. If the cancer is left alone it will continue to grow deeper into your skin down into your dermis.  They must do a biopsy on the infected area to see if it is cancerous or not. If it is cancerous they will recommend one of the following treatments.

There are many ways to remove Squamous cell carcinoma. The most common way is through excision, which is cutting a certain area around the tumor, as well as the tumor to ensure that all of the cancerous cells have been removed. If the tumor is small enough they may recommend a surgery known as curettage and electrodesiccation. Basically, they remove the tumor by scraping it off the skin and then use a small electric device to burn away the remaining cancerous cells. If the cancer is in a place that is hard to get to, behind the ear, or on your lip then Mohs surgery may be recommended. Mohs surgery does the same process as the excision except after he cuts out the tumor, plus a small area around the tumor, he will take a small section of the skin and observe it under a microscope. If he still detects cancerous cells then he will continue to cut away layers of the skin until he can’t see any more cancerous cells. If the tumor is allowed to grow to the dermis, surgery may not be able to completely remove the growth, so radiation is recommended first.  Radiation involves 15-40 consecutive visits. The doctors will recommend radiation anywhere from one to five times a week. Radiation treatment for squamous cell carcinoma is generally a short, 15 to 20-minute visit. If the squamous cell is present on your face the radiologist will make a mould of your face, around the area of the tumor with plaster. Then, they take the plaster mold and make a mask out of Perspex.  They use this mask to fix your head to the table, so you don’t move when they are shooting the tumor with radiation. Generally, after the radiation therapy is complete they will use one of the surgical methods previously mentioned to remove the rest of the tumor. After the cancer is removed there is a good chance that within five years that the squamous cell might pop up again.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. It’s most likely to occur in body parts that have been mostly exposed to the sun. Squamous cell comes in many different forms, but it can’t be diagnosed without a biopsy on the skin. After it is determined that you have cancer, there are many different paths of treatment and removal that exist.  Although there is a likely chance it will reoccur, with modern medicine, it can be handled, with little risk to your health.





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