Squamous cell carcinoma can be an aggressive and dangerous type of skin cancer. The good news is that the presence of tumors with dry, itchy skin make it possible to diagnose most cases before they metastasize. By forming in the squamous cells of the outer epidermis, these carcinomas are usually easy to detect.

Squamous cell carcinoma will sometimes start as actinic keratoses, which turns the skin dry and scaly with lesions that are red, brown, or other discoloration. Actinic keratoses spots are precancerous skin growths that should be closely monitored for signs of squamous cell carcinoma.


Like other types of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma can form almost anywhere on the body, but it’s most commonly found on areas of the body exposed to the sun. This includes the face, scalp, neck, arms, hands, and legs. It may also be found on the lips, inside the mouth, and other hidden areas.


What Does Squamous Cell Carcinoma Look Like?

If you’re concerned that a skin growth may be squamous cell carcinoma, it’s good to know the most likely symptoms and general appearance of this type of skin cancer. That said, for any ominous-looking skin spot, the best thing to do is get it checked out by a dermatologist. Schedule an appointment with our Chesterfield dermatology clinic.

  • These carcinomas most often present as scaly, irritated skin. This area of skin tends to be very rough and can bleed when irritated. It may also be itchy or otherwise painful.
  • A more defined, often dome-shaped, skin growth may form. While the initial skin spot is often red, the carcinoma often turns yellow or black. Sometimes, this skin cancer may look like a common skin wart. These images will give you a sense of how different squamous cell carcinomas can look from each other.
  • Even if a spot isn’t bothering your skin that much, be sure to get it checked out. Like moles that develop into melanomas, be wary of any existing skin spot that changes color or other characteristics. This is one of the most common symptoms of skin cancer. If you’ve had skin cancer in the past, be especially suspicious of any skin growths that develop in the same or nearby area.


Get a Biopsy for Squamous Cell Carcinoma

While a dermatologist may have a pretty good idea whether a skin spot has turned cancerous, a biopsy will provide a more definitive diagnosis, including the type and stage of the skin cancer if any is found. Even when a skin growth is squamous cell carcinoma, it’s often possible to remove the entire tumor during the biopsy procedure. For very large and irregular tumors, a partial biopsy may be performed at first to determine any treatment recommendations. With West County Dermatology, you can learn even more about what to expect with a skin cancer biopsy.


Treatment for Squamous Cell Carcinoma

One way to remove very small, potentially cancerous skin growths is with cryotherapy. This deep-freeze kills the cancerous cells in the affected area while letting the surrounding skin heal itself in a non-invasive procedure. With surgical removal and biopsy, there are medical as well as cosmetic concerns. Our dermatologists excel at minimizing any biopsy scar while ensuring the entire growth is removed. Advanced treatment for late-stage squamous cell carcinoma may include immunotherapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation. Should you need additional treatment following the biopsy results, you can learn more about what to expect with skin cancer treatment.


Risk Factors and Screenings

Along with exposure to UV radiation and hereditary factors, you’re more likely to get any type of skin cancer as you get older. You also have a higher risk of squamous cell carcinoma if you have fair skin, a personal history with skin cancer, or a weakened immune system. This type of carcinoma has a survival rate around 99 percent, and you can make these odds even better with routine skin cancer screenings and early detection.


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