Description and Possible Medical Problems

As you’ve read elsewhere in this chapter, if you spent your youth and early adult years baking or working in the sun, you’re more apt to get skin cancer than a person who has stayed in the shade.

If you begin to notice that the part of your skin that’s been exposed to the sun begins to look scaly and feels as though it’s hardened, you may have squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma frequently appears on the lips, hands, or ears; people 50 and over are most likely to have squamous cell carcinoma.

In addition to the hardened scaliness, you may also notice that a small growth has appeared below the rough skin. This growth may resemble a wart or an ulcer, but if it doesn’t clear up completely, you’ll know it’s squamous cell cancer.


If you notice a growth that may be a squamous cell carcinoma, see your doctor right away. Squamous cell carcinoma can eventually spread to other parts of the body, making it harder to treat.

Your physician will probably take a biopsy of the tumor in order to determine proper treatment, which will probably include surgical removal of the tumor. Treatments in addition to surgery may include chemotherapy, cryotherapy, and radiation (see pp. 196-197 for more information). When a squamous cell tumor is detected and treated early, the survival rate is close to 100%. After treatment, you will need to see your doctor regularly to guard against other growths.


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