Squamous Cell Carcinoma

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A patch on your skin turns out to be squamous cell carcinoma. You're worried about what this means for your health and your appearance. You'll want to come to the skin cancer experts at UVA Health. They have extensive experience and training to treat the most difficult squamous cell carcinomas.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment at UVA Health

At UVA Health, our experts use the most advanced tools to remove the cancer and to restore the damage done by treatment.

We'll pick the treatment best for you. This may include: 

For people who are not able to have surgery, other treatment options include:

  • Freezing the growth off with liquid nitrogen
  • Laser treatment
  • Radiation therapy
  • Photodynamic therapy in which the cells absorb an acid that causes them to die when exposed to light
  • Creams, especially fluorouracil or imiquimod

What Is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

It's the second most common form of skin cancer. It develops in the uppermost layer of skin cells. It usually grows slowly. Early treatment is important as the cancer can be lethal if it spreads beyond the skin.

Who's at Risk? 

Skin that is regularly exposed to the sun is most likely to develop skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma may also develop in skin that has scars, burns, or exposure to chemicals or radiation.

Factors that increase your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • Increasing age
  • Blonde or red hair
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Childhood sunburns, freckling, or long periods of sun exposure
  • Fair skin that rarely tans
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • A personal history of skin cancer
  • Treatment that suppresses the immune system, such as such as having an organ transplant
  • History of radiation or ultraviolet light treatment
  • Frequent use of tanning beds
  • Exposure to cancer causing chemical such as arsenic, tar, or some insecticides
  • Being a smoker
  • Past infection with human papillomavirus (HPV)

Watch for Signs

  • A raised red patch that is scaly or rough
  • A raised patch of skin that may appear to have horn-like rough edges
  • In color, the patch may be reddish, pink, flesh-colored, or reddish-brown
  • A long-standing sore that will not heal with simple at-home treatment

Get Checked

If you're at risk and have any of these signs, you'll want to get it checked. Your doctor can take a sample of the growth to look for cancer cells. This biopsy exam will help determine the stage and type of the cancer.

Learn more about skin cancer prevention and screening at UVA Health.