Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a very common non-melanoma skin cancer that most often occurs on the face, neck, arms and hands. The most important risk factor is ultraviolet light exposure for many years – it is not necessarily related to tanning bed use although tanning beds and a history of phototherapy for psoriasis are risk factors for SCC. Early SCC is curable but if it is not treated it can spread to other organs (metastasize) and be fatal. SCC usually develops actinic keratosis (AK – see below) but they can also develop from neglected human papillomavirus-associated warts.

Squmaous cell carcinoma is best treated by surgical removal. For many SCCs, the method of choice for removal is called Mohs’ micrographic surgery (MMS). This is a combination pathology / surgical procedure. With conventional skin cancer surgery, the cancer is removed and the defect is immediately closed with stitches. However, there is no guarantee that the cancer has been removed. Mohs’ micrographic surgery is different in that the tissue is examined under the microscope while you are still in the clinic and only when there is absolute assurance that all of the cancer has been removed is the area closed with stitches.  The microscopic examination / diagnosis part of the procedure is often regarded in the dermatology community as the most difficult part of the procedure. However, Dr Alanen is a recognized subspecialist in microscopic diagnosis of skin cancer.

Take a look at these photographs of SCC – it resembles a “solitary patch of dry skin”. If you are concerned that you may have an SCC, please make an appointmentor call us at 403-457-1900 or email info@derm.ca

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