Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This page aims to provide further information to those diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC).
What is SCC?
SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer, usually beginning in later life. SCCs appear on exposed sites such as the face (especially the lip and ear), hands, arms and lower legs in women. Rarely, SCCs can occur in longstanding leg ulcers and scars.
They occur most commonly in fair skinned people (blue eyes, red hair, freckles and a tendency to burn in the sun).
People who have lived or worked abroad in a sunny place or who work outdoors or enjoy outdoor hobbies are most at risk.
SCC may develop as thickenings within areas of sun damage, initially as scaly patches and later becoming thick and fleshy. They may also appear as ulcers or crusted lumps in previously normal skin. They grow quickly over weeks or months, damaging local tissue. The majority are cured by treatment.
Rarely, if they are large, neglected, or grow on the lip or ear, they may spread to the lymph glands and therefore be hazardous to health. These would be felt as hard swellings of the lymph glands near to where the SCC had been.
How are they diagnosed?
SCCs are diagnosed by their appearance. The diagnosis may also be confirmed by removing part or the whole lesion and sending it to a pathologist to examine under a microscope.
SCCs are usually treated by surgery under a local anaesthetic. Sometimes they are treated by X-ray therapy alone or in addition to surgery.
Your doctor will be able to discuss treatment options with you in greater detail.
It is wise to have the treated area and the associated lymph glands checked every three months or so to make sure that the SCC is not coming back. This may be done by a nurse or doctor at the dermatology department, or your GP. The length of your follow-up will depend on the results of your biopsy.
You should protect the skin from sun once you have had an SCC to prevent more developings. You should wear a sunscreen and a hat during the summer months (even on a dull day as the sun’s rays still get through the clouds). Your doctor or nurse will be able to advise you on further safety in the sun.
Cancer Research UK
Offer a wealth of information about cancer and cancer research
t: 0808 800 4040
British Association of Dermatologists
t: 0207 383 0266
Cancer information for patients and carers
Sun Smart (Cancer Research UK)
The UK’s National Skin Cancer Prevention Campaign run by Cancer Research UK.
t: 0800 226237