Squamous cell carcinoma forms when squamous cells begin to cluster together and grow uncontrollably. In most cases, this is a result of cellular damage caused by repeated exposure to UV rays over time. This means that people who use tanning beds or who have spent a lot of time outdoors are at a much higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. It most commonly develops on sun-exposed areas, such as the head, neck, and tops of the hands. Women typically develop it on their lower legs.
Squamous cell carcinoma usually first appears as a red, scaly plaque of skin or as a hard domed bump. Both varieties typically feel rough and crusty and can bleed when scraped. Growths may also be pink and dry and may itch or burn. As mentioned above, the cancer usually forms on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, lips, arms, legs, and tops of the hands, but it can also more rarely appear on areas not exposed to the sun including the lower lip, genitals, in the lining of organs and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Squamous cell carcinoma usually develops slowly but can spread to the lymph nodes and other organs if left untreated. If caught early though, it is highly treatable.
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A doctor will diagnose squamous cell carcinoma with a biopsy. Treatment of the cancer will then vary depending on location, size, severity, how far it has spread and the health of the patient.