Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin - causes, symptoms and treatment

Squamous cell carcinoma is a skin cancer. Its development (similarly to basal cell carcinoma) is influenced by, among others: genetic conditions, exposure to solar radiation. This type of cancer is more common in Caucasian people, the elderly, and people who have had immune-suppressing treatments.


What is the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma is much more dangerous than basal cell carcinoma, but it is much less common. This cancer mainly affects white people. It can develop both on the skin and on the mucous membranes.

Squamous cell carcinoma symptoms

The neoplasm can be localized:

  • on the face (nose, cheek, lips, mouth),
  • auricle,
  • temples,
  • lower limbs,
  • scalp,
  • foot
  • around the genitals and anus.

The most common form of this skin cancer is a flat ulceration surrounded by a wide, raised, ridged infiltration and often covered with a scab.

Squamous cell carcinoma sometimes takes the form of an exuberant, fungus, verrucous lesion that is not ulcerated.

Causes of squamous cell carcinoma

The most important factors affecting the occurrence of this type of cancer are:

  • occurrence of actinic or senile keratosis, parchment pigmented skin, dermatoses, long-term ulcerations, scars, chronic inflammation,
  • genetic predispositions
  • UV,
  • exposure to solar radiation, especially in childhood,
  • old age,
  • male gender,
  • light complexion,
  • immunosuppressive treatment,
  • the presence of extensive scars, especially those from burns, or non-healing wounds,
  • HPV infection (in the case of squamous cell carcinoma of the oral and genital mucosa).

Diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma

The diagnosis of this type of cancer must be confirmed by histopathological examination, therefore a biopsy is taken from the suspicious lesion or, if the lesion is small enough, it is excised entirely. The diagnosis is made after obtaining a microscopic evaluation of the specimen.

Regional lymph node status should always be assessed. If there is a suspicion of metastases to the lymph nodes closest to the neoplastic lesion, ultrasound of these nodes and a biopsy are performed.

In patients with advanced lesions, it is necessary to perform diagnostics in order to exclude dissemination of the disease. A chest X-ray, abdominal ultrasound and ultrasound of regional lymph nodes are then performed, and in case of doubt, other, more detailed tests are performed.

Squamous cell carcinoma treatment

Treatment of most cases of squamous cell carcinoma consists in excision of the lesion with a margin of healthy skin and postoperative histopathological examination. This is the so-called excisional biopsy.

For superficial skin cancer, topical treatment is applied by applying a cream containing imiquimod to the affected skin. Precise details on the use of the preparation are provided by the doctor.

If the patient's condition requires it, the operation is supplemented with plastic surgery or skin graft to close the wound.

Other topical treatments include:

  • cryotherapy,
  • laser therapy,
  • photodynamic therapy.

If metastases are found in regional lymph nodes, their removal and supplementary radiotherapy of regional lymph drainage are recommended.

Patients in whom the operation was not complete and its scope cannot be extended, and those who were operated on due to local recurrence, are most often subjected to radiotherapy.

In patients with metastases, treatment is individualized and includes:

  • surgery,
  • radiotherapy,
  • chemotherapy.

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After the end of treatment, regular and control examinations are recommended, performed in accordance with the doctor's instructions.

Squamous cell carcinoma - prognosis and complications

Squamous cell carcinoma has a fairly good prognosis at a low stage of the disease.

In the absence of metastasis, about 90% survive 5 years. sick. When metastases are present in the surrounding lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate drops to 40-50%.

This tumor grows slowly, but has a high capacity to infiltrate surrounding tissues, causing their destruction.

In 5-30 percent. of patients metastasizes in neighboring, regional lymph nodes, it can also give distant metastases. The appearance of distant metastases worsens the prognosis.

Squamous cell carcinoma prevention

Preventing advanced forms of squamous cell carcinoma involves:

  • assessing each patient's risk characteristics and adjusting prophylactic procedures,
  • providing people from risk groups with more detailed care,
  • avoiding excessive exposure to the sun, especially short episodes of intense sunlight causing skin burns,
  • taking care of adequate sun protection.

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Squamous cell carcinoma - recommendations

  • Monitor your skin every month, and if something concerns you, contact a dermatologist.
  • Have your skin checked by your doctor once a year.
  • Take care of adequate sun protection - use creams with a high filter, avoid exposure to the sun between 10.00 and 16.00, wear sunglasses with a filter.

Medicover offer


  • comprehensive assessment of skin lesions: dermatoscopy, digital videodermoscopy.


  • surgical excision of lesions on an outpatient basis,
  • widening the cutting margin,
  • qualification for local treatment - cryotherapy,
  • assessment of the advancement of the generalized process - ultrasound of the lymph nodes and abdominal cavity, chest X-ray.


The presented medical information should not be treated as guidelines for medical conduct in relation to each patient. The medical procedure, including the scope and frequency of diagnostic tests and/or therapeutic procedures, is decided by the doctor individually, in accordance with medical indications, which he determines after getting acquainted with the patient's condition. The doctor makes the decision in consultation with the patient. If the patient wants to perform tests not covered by medical indications, the patient has the option of paying for them.

Prezentowanych informacji o charakterze medycznym nie należy traktować jako wytycznych postępowania medycznego w stosunku do każdego pacjenta. O postępowaniu medycznym, w tym o zakresie i częstotliwości badań diagnostycznych i/lub procedur terapeutycznych decyduje lekarz indywidualnie, zgodnie ze wskazaniami medycznymi, które ustala po zapoznaniu się ze stanem pacjenta. Lekarz podejmuje decyzję w porozumieniu z pacjentem. W przypadku chęci realizacji badań nieobjętych wskazaniami lekarskimi, pacjent ma możliwość ich odpłatnego wykonania.
Date added 07.02.2023
Data ostatniej aktualizacji 07.02.2023