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General Practice 2023

Squamous cell carcinoma: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment

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Squamous cell carcinoma: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment
Squamous cell carcinoma: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment

Squamous cell carcinoma, also known as SCC or squamous cell carcinoma, is a type of skin cancer that arises mainly in the mouth, tongue and esophagus and causes signs and symptoms such as wounds that do not heal, that bleed easily and rough patches on the skin, with irregular edges and reddish or brown in color.

In most cases, squamous cell carcinoma develops because of excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays, emitted by sunlight or tanning cameras, and people with lighter skin and eyes are at greater risk of having this type of cancer.

Treatment for squamous cell carcinoma depends on the size of the lesion and the severity of the cancer cells and, in general, in less aggressive cases, a minor surgery is performed to remove the tumor. Therefore, when skin lesions appear, it is important to look for a dermatologist, because the sooner the diagnosis is made, the greater the chances of cure.


Main signs and symptoms

Squamous cell carcinoma appears mainly in the mouth regions, however, it can appear in any part of the body that has been very exposed to the sun, such as the scalp and hands, and can be identified through signs such as:

  • Wound that does not scar and bleeds easily;
  • Red or brown spot;
  • Rough, bulging skin lesions;
  • Swollen and painful scar;
  • Lesions with irregular edges.

For this reason, it is always important to pay attention and check the presence of spots on the skin, as some spots caused by the sun can often progress and become cancer, as in actinic keratoses. Learn more about what actinic keratosis is and how to treat it.

In addition, when checking for the appearance of skin lesions, it is necessary to seek the care of a dermatologist, as an examination will be carried out with a high power microscope to verify the characteristics of the stain and a skin biopsy may be recommended to confirm if it's cancer.

Classification of squamous cell carcinoma

This type of cancer can have different classifications according to the characteristics of the tumor, the depth of the lesion and the invasion of cancer cells in other parts of the body, such as in the lymph nodes, which can be:

  • Poorly differentiated: occurs when diseased cells are aggressive and grow rapidly;
  • Moderately differentiated: is an intermediate stage where cancer cells are still multiplying;
  • Well differentiated: is the least aggressive and happens when cancer cells resemble he althy skin cells.

There is also a classification for cases in which the tumor is very deep and affects several skin structures, which is invasive squamous cell carcinoma, so that it needs to be treated quickly so that it does not grow further and does not cause metastasis. See more about how metastasis happens.


Possible causes

The causes of squamous cell carcinoma are not well defined, however, in most cases, the emergence of this type of cancer is related to excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays, by sunlight or through artificial tanning cameras.

Tobacco use, non-moderate alcohol intake, genetic predisposition, infections caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and contact with chemical products, such as toxic and acidic vapors, can also be situations that lead to the appearance of this type of skin cancer.

In addition, some risk factors may be associated with the appearance of squamous cell carcinoma such as having fair skin, light eyes or naturally red or blond hair.

How the treatment is done

Squamous cell carcinoma is curable and the treatment is defined by the dermatologist, considering the size, depth, location and severity of the tumor, as well as the person's he alth conditions, which can be:

  • Surgery: consists of removing the lesion through a surgical procedure;
  • Cryotherapy: is the removal of the tumor by applying an extremely cold product, such as liquid nitrogen;
  • Lasertherapy: is based on eliminating the cancer lesion by means of laser application;
  • Radiotherapy: is the elimination of cancer cells through radiation;
  • Chemotherapy: is the application of drugs through a vein to kill tumor cells;
  • Cell therapy: drugs are used that help the body's immune system to eliminate squamous cell carcinoma cells, such as the drug pembrolizumab.

Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are more indicated in cases where squamous cell carcinoma has reached various parts of the body, including the bloodstream, and the number of sessions, the dose of the medication and the duration of this type of treatment will vary. depending on the doctor's recommendation.

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