Many SCCs develop from an existing precancerous actinic keratosis (AK) or actinic cheilitis. SCCs usually appear as thick, rough, scaly patches that may bleed if bumped. They often look like warts and sometimes appear as open sores with a raised border and crusted surface over an elevated pebbly base. The skin around SCCs typically shows signs of sun damage such as wrinkling, pigment changes, and loss of elasticity. These lesions persist for weeks and occasionally bleed. They may also rapidly increase in size.

In general, SCCs are more threatening than BCCs and have a greater chance of spreading and becoming life threatening if untreated.

Skin Cancer Treatment Options for Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinoma:

  • Curettage and Electrodesiccation – As with AKs, the growth is scraped off with a curette, but when treating BCCs or SCCs, the procedure is typically repeated a few times to help assure that all cancer cells are eliminated. Local anesthesia is required, and bleeding is controlled with an electrocautery needle.
  • Excisional Surgery – Along with the above procedure, this is one of the most common treatments for BCCs and SCCs. Using a scalpel, the physician removes the entire growth along with a surrounding border of apparently normal skin as a safety margin. The incision is closed, and the growth is sent to the laboratory to verify that all cancerous cells have been removed.
  • Mohs Micrographic Surgery – The physician removes the tumor with a curette or scalpel and then removes very thin layers of the remaining surrounding skin one layer at a time. Each layer is checked under a microscope, and the procedure is repeated until the last layer viewed is cancer-free. This technique saves the greatest amount of healthy tissue and may reduce the rate of local recurrence. It is often used for tumors that have recurred or are in hard-to-treat places such as the head, neck, hands, and feet.
  • Cryosurgery, laser surgery, and photodynamic therapy – the same treatments used to eliminate AKs can also be used to treat BCCs and SCCs.
  • BCCs and SCCs are easily treated when they are detected at an early stage. However, the larger a tumor grows, the more dangerous and potentially disfiguring it may become and the more extensive the treatment must be.