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Is Squamous Cell Carcinoma Curable?

written by: Diana Cooper • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 8/18/2010

Being diagnosed with this common type of skin cancer can be frightening. Is squamous cell carcinoma curable? Yes it is but there are exceptions. Learn more about this condition in this article.

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    Skin Cancer

    Squamous Cell Carcinoma Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma are two of the most common types of skin cancer. Squamous cell is a malignant tumor that affects the middle part of the epidermal layer of the skin. It is more aggressive and more likely to spread (metastasize) to other areas than basal cell cancer. However, it is relatively slow-growing. So is squamous cell carcinoma curable?

    Click on images to enlarge.

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    Squamous Cell Carcinoma

    Squamous Cell Carcinoma Over 250,000 people are diagnosed with this type of skin cancer every year. Men are twice as likely to get than women and most cases are seen in people over the age of 50. It can appear on all parts of the body (including mucous membranes) but areas frequently exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays are more common (including the scalp, face, edge of the earlobe, lower lip, neck, arms, hands, and legs). Other causes of squamous cell carcinoma are skin injuries (such as scars and burns) and chronic skin infections. Occasionally, it can appear on healthy skin (which some researchers believe to be inherited).

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    Is it Curable?

    If treated early, squamous cell carcinoma has a high cure rate (about 95%) and causes minimal damage. Treatment varies depending on the tumor's size, location, and depth, as well as the person's age and general health. Treatments can range from skin creams to radiation and are almost always done on an outpatient basis.

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    Early Detection

    Bowen's Disease (earliest form of squamous cell carcinoma) Regular skin examinations are important in detecting early signs. People who are at a higher risk of getting skin cancer include those with light colored skin, hair, and eyes, many freckles and/or moles, and a family history of skin cancer.

    Look for changes in existing growths (like moles) and sores that do not heal. A change in appearance and the development of inflammation, bleeding, and pain can be suspicious. If there is a possibility of skin cancer, it should be reported to a health care provider. A biopsy is often done to confirm the diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma.

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    Prevention

    A little sunlight benefits the body but too much can damage the skin. Typically, 10-15 minutes a day (face and hands) is sufficient. To protect skin from sun rays, wear tight-woven clothes and a hat. Apply a sunscreen to exposed skin. If possible, avoid the sun during 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. when it is at its strongest. Stay in the shade and be aware that even on cloudy days, harmful rays can still get through the clouds.

    Avoid sun lamps and tanning beds.

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    References

    Medline Plus: Squamous cell skin cancer - http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000829.htm

    Skin Cancer Foundation: Squamous Cell Carcinoma - http://www.skincancer.org/squamous-cell-carcinoma.html

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    Photo Credit

    Images courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (NLM).