Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

Squamous cell cancer affects the thin, flat cells in skin’s surface. These cells are also found in the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts and some organs. Squamous cell cancer is the second most common skin cancer. It is more likely to spread than basal cell skin cancer but is usually easily treated.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the size, depth and location of the tumor, and your overall health. Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery: A surgeon simply cuts out the cancer and stitches your skin back together. 
  • Chemotherapy: If the cancer has spread or cannot be treated with surgery, you may need treatment with special medicine to stop or slow the cancer’s growth.
  • Cryosurgery: A doctor uses a special probe to kill cancer cells by freezing them. This method is used mainly for small tumors that are not deep.
  • Curettage and electrodessication: A specially trained doctor scrapes away cancer cells, and then use small bursts of electricity to kill any cancer cells that remain. 
  • Mohs surgery: A specially trained doctor will remove a layer of skin and look at it right away under a microscope. Then the doctor will keep removing layers of skin until there are no signs of the cancer. This method is often used for cancers on the face.
  • Topical medicine: A cancer that is not large or deep may be treated with medicated skin cream.
  • Photodynamic therapy: The tumor is treated with a drug that makes the cancer cells sensitive to light. Then a doctor shines a special kind of light onto the tumor to destroy the cancer cells. This method is used to treat cancers that are not large or deep.
  • Radiation therapy: This method uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink the tumor. It may be used if squamous cell cancer has spread to organs or lymph nodes or it cannot be treated with surgery.

Most of these cancers are cured when treated early, but some may return and need further treatment.

Care Team

You may see one or more of the following specialists for your cancer treatment.

Bryan Anderson, MD Bryan Anderson, MD Dermatologist View Researcher Profile
Elizabeth Billingsley, MD Elizabeth Billingsley, MD Dermatologist View Researcher Profile
Joseph Drabick, MD Joseph Drabick, MD Hematologist/Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Diane Hershock, MD, PhD Diane Hershock, MD, PhD Medical Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Heath Mackley, MD Heath Mackley, MD Radiation Oncologist View Researcher Profile
James Marks, MD James Marks, MD Dermatologist View Researcher Profile
Rogerio Neves, MD, PhD Rogerio Neves, MD, PhD Surgeon View Researcher Profile
Colette R. Pameijer, MD Colette R. Pameijer, MD Surgeon View Researcher Profile
Marc Rovito, MD Marc Rovito, MD Hematologist/Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Christie Travelute, MD Christie Travelute, MD Dermatologist View Researcher Profile
Henry Wagner Jr., MD Henry Wagner Jr., MD Radiologist View Researcher Profile
Amanda Cooper, MD Amanda Cooper, MD View Researcher Profile
Kevin L. Rakszawski, MD Kevin L. Rakszawski, MD View Researcher Profile

Locations

Penn State Cancer Institute

Penn State Cancer Institute

400 University Dr
Hershey, PA 17033

Phone: 717-531-6585
Penn State Health Medical Group - Nyes Road Specialties

Penn State Health Medical Group - Nyes Road Specialties

121 N Nyes Rd
Suite C
Harrisburg, PA 17112

Phone: 717-657-4045
Penn State Health Medical Group Camp Hill - Specialties

Penn State Health Medical Group Camp Hill - Specialties

3025 Market St
Entrance A
Camp Hill, PA 17011

Phone: 717-761-8900
Penn State Health Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery/Pediatric Surgery

Penn State Health Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery/Pediatric Surgery

200 Campus Dr
Suite 400 | Entrance 2
Hershey, PA 17033

Phone: 717-531-6822

Clinical Trials

Groups, Classes and Support

Support groups offer an opportunity to connect with other patients, caregivers and families. Learn more about support groups offered at Penn State Cancer Institute.

To find out more about squamous cell skin cancer, visit:

Prevention and Screening

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Use it on any exposed skin, even when it’s cloudy or cold, and apply it at least 30 minutes before going outside. If you’ll be sweating or swimming, make sure your sunscreen is water-resistant, and reapply often.

Here are some other ways to protect your skin:

  • Ultraviolet (UV) light is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to avoid the sun during these hours. 
  • Wear wide-brim hats, long-sleeve shirts, long skirts or pants.
  • Keep in mind that some surfaces reflect light, such as water, sand, concrete and areas that are painted white.
  • Remember that the higher the altitude, the faster your skin burns.
  • Do not use sunlamps and tanning beds. Spending 15 to 20 minutes at a tanning bed does as much harm as a day spent in the sun.

Check your skin once a month. Have your doctor check it once a year if you are older than 40 and every three years if you are 20 to 40 years old.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Squamous cell cancer affects the thin, flat cells in skin’s surface. These cells are also found in the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts and some organs.

Symptoms

Squamous cell cancer can occur anywhere on your skin, but usually appears on the face, ears, neck, hands or arms. It can be larger than one inch, and it usually grows slowly but can spread faster than basal cell cancer.

It might look like a growing bump, or a rough scaly spot with flat, red patches. It may just look like a sore that doesn't heal. Any time a wart or lesion changes in appearance, it could be a sign of cancer, even if you have had the wart or lesion for a long time. See your doctor any time you have a sore or spot on your skin that changes in:

  • Appearance
  • Color
  • Size
  • Texture

Also see your doctor if a spot becomes painful or swollen or if it starts to bleed or itch.

Diagnosis

To confirm cancer, you will need a biopsy. Your doctor will remove all or part of the spot and send it to a lab to check for cancer cells. If you have cancer, you may need more tests to see how deep it is and whether it has spread.

Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

Squamous cell cancer affects the thin, flat cells in skin’s surface. These cells are also found in the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts and some organs. Squamous cell cancer is the second most common skin cancer. It is more likely to spread than basal cell skin cancer but is usually easily treated.

Treatment depends on the size, depth and location of the tumor, and your overall health. Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery: A surgeon simply cuts out the cancer and stitches your skin back together. 
  • Chemotherapy: If the cancer has spread or cannot be treated with surgery, you may need treatment with special medicine to stop or slow the cancer’s growth.
  • Cryosurgery: A doctor uses a special probe to kill cancer cells by freezing them. This method is used mainly for small tumors that are not deep.
  • Curettage and electrodessication: A specially trained doctor scrapes away cancer cells, and then use small bursts of electricity to kill any cancer cells that remain. 
  • Mohs surgery: A specially trained doctor will remove a layer of skin and look at it right away under a microscope. Then the doctor will keep removing layers of skin until there are no signs of the cancer. This method is often used for cancers on the face.
  • Topical medicine: A cancer that is not large or deep may be treated with medicated skin cream.
  • Photodynamic therapy: The tumor is treated with a drug that makes the cancer cells sensitive to light. Then a doctor shines a special kind of light onto the tumor to destroy the cancer cells. This method is used to treat cancers that are not large or deep.
  • Radiation therapy: This method uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink the tumor. It may be used if squamous cell cancer has spread to organs or lymph nodes or it cannot be treated with surgery.

Most of these cancers are cured when treated early, but some may return and need further treatment.

You may see one or more of the following specialists for your cancer treatment.

Bryan Anderson, MD Bryan Anderson, MD Dermatologist View Researcher Profile
Elizabeth Billingsley, MD Elizabeth Billingsley, MD Dermatologist View Researcher Profile
Joseph Drabick, MD Joseph Drabick, MD Hematologist/Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Diane Hershock, MD, PhD Diane Hershock, MD, PhD Medical Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Heath Mackley, MD Heath Mackley, MD Radiation Oncologist View Researcher Profile
James Marks, MD James Marks, MD Dermatologist View Researcher Profile
Rogerio Neves, MD, PhD Rogerio Neves, MD, PhD Surgeon View Researcher Profile
Colette R. Pameijer, MD Colette R. Pameijer, MD Surgeon View Researcher Profile
Marc Rovito, MD Marc Rovito, MD Hematologist/Oncologist View Researcher Profile
Christie Travelute, MD Christie Travelute, MD Dermatologist View Researcher Profile
Henry Wagner Jr., MD Henry Wagner Jr., MD Radiologist View Researcher Profile
Amanda Cooper, MD Amanda Cooper, MD View Researcher Profile
Kevin L. Rakszawski, MD Kevin L. Rakszawski, MD View Researcher Profile
Penn State Cancer Institute

Penn State Cancer Institute

400 University Dr
Hershey, PA 17033

Phone: 717-531-6585
Penn State Health Medical Group - Nyes Road Specialties

Penn State Health Medical Group - Nyes Road Specialties

121 N Nyes Rd
Suite C
Harrisburg, PA 17112

Phone: 717-657-4045
Penn State Health Medical Group Camp Hill - Specialties

Penn State Health Medical Group Camp Hill - Specialties

3025 Market St
Entrance A
Camp Hill, PA 17011

Phone: 717-761-8900
Penn State Health Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery/Pediatric Surgery

Penn State Health Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery/Pediatric Surgery

200 Campus Dr
Suite 400 | Entrance 2
Hershey, PA 17033

Phone: 717-531-6822

Support groups offer an opportunity to connect with other patients, caregivers and families. Learn more about support groups offered at Penn State Cancer Institute.

To find out more about squamous cell skin cancer, visit:

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Use it on any exposed skin, even when it’s cloudy or cold, and apply it at least 30 minutes before going outside. If you’ll be sweating or swimming, make sure your sunscreen is water-resistant, and reapply often.

Here are some other ways to protect your skin:

  • Ultraviolet (UV) light is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to avoid the sun during these hours. 
  • Wear wide-brim hats, long-sleeve shirts, long skirts or pants.
  • Keep in mind that some surfaces reflect light, such as water, sand, concrete and areas that are painted white.
  • Remember that the higher the altitude, the faster your skin burns.
  • Do not use sunlamps and tanning beds. Spending 15 to 20 minutes at a tanning bed does as much harm as a day spent in the sun.

Check your skin once a month. Have your doctor check it once a year if you are older than 40 and every three years if you are 20 to 40 years old.

Squamous cell cancer affects the thin, flat cells in skin’s surface. These cells are also found in the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts and some organs.

Symptoms

Squamous cell cancer can occur anywhere on your skin, but usually appears on the face, ears, neck, hands or arms. It can be larger than one inch, and it usually grows slowly but can spread faster than basal cell cancer.

It might look like a growing bump, or a rough scaly spot with flat, red patches. It may just look like a sore that doesn't heal. Any time a wart or lesion changes in appearance, it could be a sign of cancer, even if you have had the wart or lesion for a long time. See your doctor any time you have a sore or spot on your skin that changes in:

  • Appearance
  • Color
  • Size
  • Texture

Also see your doctor if a spot becomes painful or swollen or if it starts to bleed or itch.

Diagnosis

To confirm cancer, you will need a biopsy. Your doctor will remove all or part of the spot and send it to a lab to check for cancer cells. If you have cancer, you may need more tests to see how deep it is and whether it has spread.