Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is another common skin cancer and is caused by cumulative sun exposure. This type of skin cancer is also more common in patients with suppressed immune systems or within sites of prior skin trauma, such as burns. Squamous cell carcinoma usually appears as a thick, rough, scaly spot that may bleed. They may look like warts or may appear as an open sore with a raised border and crusted surface.

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are usually limited to the skin and cure rates are close to 100 percent when detected and treated early. However, larger and deeper lesions can be disfiguring if neglected. Basal cell carcinomas rarely spread or metastasize internally to vital organs, but can be locally destructive. Squamous cell carcinomas have a great chance of spreading and can be life-threatening if left untreated.

If a skin cancer is suspected, a sample of tissue at the site (a biopsy) is taken for examination under the microscope to confirm the diagnosis. There are several treatment options for basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. Excisional surgery is the mainstay of treatment and cure rates are generally greater than 95%. Mohs surgery is also a good treatment option for lesions on critical areas of the face, larger tumors, and those that are recurrent or poorly demarcated. Mohs surgery allows the surgeon to spare the normal surrounding tissue as much as possible while still achieving a 99% cure rate. Other treatment options include electrodesiccation and curettage where the cancer is scraped off with sharp instrument (a curette) and then desiccated or burned with an electrocautery needle. For more superficial tumors photodynamic therapy, topical imiquimod, or 5-fluorouricil can be used.