Skin Cancer Experiences: Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, affecting 3.4 million Americans every year.1 As you may know, there are three common forms of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Other types of skin cancer (such as cutaneous lymphoma, merkel cell carcinoma, and Kaposi sarcoma) make up less than 1% of all skin cancers.2 To learn more about the conditions that affect our skin cancer community, we asked community members what type of skin cancer they’ve experienced. In part 2 of this series, we’re sharing what the community had to say about squamous cell carcinoma.

I’ve experienced squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

“Squamous cell”

“Squamous Cell. Four incidents. All on my face.”

“A couple squamous cell”

“Squamous cell removed on left arm!”

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer, with approximately 700,000 new cases diagnosed in the US every year.3 Like basal cell carcinoma, SCC is also a form of non-melanoma skin cancer, and also appears on parts of the body that get the most sun exposure. About 60% of SCC tumors are a result of precancerous lesions, so treating precancerous lesions may help you reduce your risk of SCC. You can also reduce your risk of SCC, as well as your risk of recurrence, by protecting yourself from the sun.3

Staging SCC

Doctors will stage your SCC using a system called TNM. TNM stands for primary tumor, regional lymph nodes, and metastasis. Using this system, your doctor will assign your tumor as Stage 0, Stage I, Stage II, Stage III, or Stage IV. Usually, tumors assigned a lower stage have a better chance of long-term cure and survival. SCC tumors are also assigned a Clark level, which indicates which layer of the skin the tumor has invaded. Like BCC, most SCC tumors are found early and can be treated with a simple removal procedure in the doctor’s office. However, based on the location and your risk of recurrence, your doctor may recommend a different treatment, or a series of treatments.4

Coping with SCC

If you have experienced SCC, you may be concerned about the scar that forms after removing a tumor. For many of our community members, scars remind you of the risk of recurrence, or they can impact how you view your appearance. If you are worried about scars, we recommend that you rely on friends and family to support you, and know that many scars can take a year or two to heal fully, so the appearance may lessen over time. You can also talk to your health care providers about ways to minimize the appearance of scars, including non-surgical interventions (such as make-up products or laser technologies), as well as surgical options (like reconstruction or scar relocation).5

Stay tuned for part three of this series where we share the community feedback about melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

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