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Does Squamous Cell Carcinoma Itch

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment

Overview of Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma can usually be treated with minor surgery that can be done in a doctors office or hospital clinic. Depending on the size and location of the SCC, your doctor may choose different techniques to remove it.

For small skin cancers:

  • Curettage and electrodessication : removing the top layer of the skin cancer then using an electronic needle to kill cancer cells
  • Laser therapy: an intense light destroys the growth
  • : a photosensitizing solution applied to your skin then activated with a light or daylight, or sometimes with intense pulsed light
  • Cryosurgery: freezing of the spot using liquid nitrogen

For larger skin cancers:

  • Excision: cutting out the cancer spot and some healthy skin around it, then stitching up the wound
  • Mohs surgery: excision and then inspecting the excised skin using a microscope this requires stitching up the wound

Dark Streak Under Nails

This may not be a symptom you immediately associate with a skin cancer diagnosis. Unfortunately, it can often be an early warning sign that gets dismissed for that very reason. When SCC develops around the nail, it can seem like a wart that won’t go away. In addition to the black or brown streak under the nail, this can mean skin cancer is progressing.

How To Spot An Scc

SCC of the skin can develop anywhere on the body but is most often found on exposed areas exposed to ultraviolet radiation like the face, lips, ears, scalp, shoulders, neck, back of the hands and forearms. SCCs can develop in scars, skin sores and other areas of skin injury. The skin around them typically shows signs of sun damage such as wrinkling, pigment changes and loss of elasticity.

SCCs can appear as thick, rough, scaly patches that may crust or bleed. They can also resemble warts, or open sores that dont completely heal. Sometimes SCCs show up as growths that are raised at the edges with a lower area in the center that may bleed or itch.

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How Will Your Doctor Diagnose Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Your doctor will first examine the area in question, looking for things such as: the size, whether or not the borders are clearly or poorly defined, and location, including whether or not the spot is situated on top of a previous injury. The next step is a biopsy, which is the removal of tissue for examination under a microscope. If a tumor is considered to be high-risk, your doctor might order imaging scans to determine if nearby lymph nodes are involved or if the tumor has invaded other tissue in the area.

The Answer To The Question Is Skin Cancer Itchy Mostly Depends On Which Form Of The Disease You Have

Doctor Warns That Itchy Skin Spot May Suggest More ...

Itching is more likely to be associated with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma .

Is skin cancer itchy? The easy answer to this question is, No, itchy skin by itself is not likely to be a symptom of skin cancer, but its important to look beyond the easiest answer.

Each type of cancer has its own set of symptoms, and there is some overlap among the warning signs. Skin lesions are a kind of common denominator that indicates the possibility of skin cancer, and the lesions may be suspicious or different-looking moles, sores, spots, ulcer, or patches. Any one of those irregularities by itself is a warning sign, and itching could add to the discomfort.

Itching is more likely to be associated with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma . It is much less likely to be associated with the deadliest form of the diseasemelanoma.

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Is Skin Cancer Tender To The Touch

Skin cancer can hurt, particularly when lesions have gone untreated for a significant period of time. Even lesions that dont puss or bleed can eventually hurt in fact, moles that become tender to the touch may be dangerous and should be examined by a dermatologist as soon as possible. Melanoma is often recognized as moles that change in size, shape, and color, but becoming painful is another warning sign.

Presence Of Neutrophils In The Inflammatory Infiltrate

The presence of neutrophils in the inflammatory infiltrate was associated with an increased prevalence of pain and increased pain intensity . A stronger association between pain and the presence of neutrophils in the inflammatory infiltrate was seen in SCCs compared with BCCs.

The presence of neutrophils in the inflammatory infiltrate was also associated with an increased prevalence of itch and increased itch intensity . Analysis of different cancer types reveals no association with itch intensity. An analysis of the association between pain and itch and the presence of neutrophils in the inflammatory infiltrate could not be performed in melanoma because neutrophils were not detected in the inflammatory infiltrate in any of the melanoma samples.

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Melanoma Signs And Symptoms

Melanoma skin cancer is much more serious than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It can spread quickly to other organs and causes the vast majority of skin cancer deaths in the United States. Usually melanomas develop in or around an existing mole.


Signs and symptoms of melanoma vary depending on the exact type and may include:

  • A flat or slightly raised, discolored patch with irregular borders and possible areas of tan, brown, black, red, blue or white
  • A firm bump, often black but occasionally blue, gray, white, brown, tan, red or your usual skin tone
  • A flat or slightly raised mottled tan, brown or dark brown discoloration
  • A black or brown discoloration, usually under the nails, on the palms or on the soles of the feet

See more pictures and get details about different types of melanoma in our dedicated melanoma section.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Signs And Symptoms

Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

Generally found on the ears, face and mouth, squamous cell carcinoma can be more aggressive than basal cell. Untreated, it may push through the skin layers to the lymphatic system, bloodstream and nerve routes, where it can cause pain and symptoms of serious illness.


Squamous cell cancer often starts as a precancerous lesion known as actinic keratosis . When it becomes cancerous, the lesion appears raised above the normal skin surface and is firmer to the touch. Sometimes the spot shows only a slight change from normal skin.

Other signs include:

  • Any change, such as crusting or bleeding, in an existing wart, mole, scar or other skin lesion
  • A wart-like growth that crusts and sometimes bleeds
  • A scaly, persistent reddish patch with irregular borders, which may crust or bleed
  • A persistent open sore that does not heal and bleeds, crusts or oozes
  • A raised growth with a depression in the center that occasionally bleeds and may rapidly increase in size

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Study Population And Clinical Protocol

This analysis was part of a larger study on skin cancers that involved 603 total cutaneous neoplasms from 505 different patients . Only cutaneous neoplasms from skin biopsy specimens available for histopatho-logic examination were included in the present study. The study was designed to examine the correlation of itch and pain with cancer type, subtype, tumor size, and several histologic features, including the amount and type of inflammation, peri-neural invasion, ulceration, and depth of invasion. The Wake Forest University School of Medicine Institutional Review Board approved this study. Participants had biopsy-proven BCC, SCC, malignant melanoma, or melanoma in situ and were recruited from the patient population presenting to the Department of Dermatology surgical unit at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center from July 1, 2010, through March 31, 2011. Under guidance from a trained member of the research team , the participants signed a written informed consent form and were then asked to fill out a questionnaire designed to identify their symptoms of itch and pain associated with their tumor. The study participants were asked to rank their perceived sensations of itch and pain on an 11-point numerical visual analog scale . The VAS is anchored with the verbal descriptors of no sensation on the left and the most intense sensation imaginable on the right.

How Common Is Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Over 1 million people are diagnosed with SCC in the US each year. The incidence of SCC has risen about 200 percent over the past 30 years. There are more than 15,000 deaths each year in the US from SCC. Excluding head and neck SCC and CSCC in situ, about 200,000-400,000 new cases of SCC are diagnosed in the US every year, resulting in about 3,000 deaths.

Men are about two times more likely than women to develop SCCs. People over the age of 50 are most likely to get SCCs, but the incidence has been rising in younger people.

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Look Out For An Ugly Duckling

The Ugly Duckling is another warning sign of melanoma. This recognition strategy is based on the concept that most normal moles on your body resemble one another, while melanomas stand out like ugly ducklings in comparison. This highlights the importance of not just checking for irregularities, but also comparing any suspicious spot to surrounding moles to determine whether it looks different from its neighbors. These ugly duckling lesions or outlier lesions can be larger, smaller, lighter or darker, compared to surrounding moles. Also, isolated lesions without any surrounding moles for comparison are considered ugly ducklings.

Is Skin Cancer Itchy

Skin Cancer On Scalp Itchy

An itchy skin rash could be a warning sign of skin cancer. But, itching is very common and can occur for many reasons other than cancer. Some possible explanations include dry skin, eczema, contact dermatitis, an insect bite or an allergic reaction to a medication, cosmetic or poison ivy.

Due to the wide range of potential causes, itchy skin alone is usually not a reason to be overly concerned. Unless the itching is very bothersome or lasts beyond a few days, home remedies such as applying an anti-itch cream, moisturizer or cool compress may be all that is needed to improve comfort until the itching resolves on its own.

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Surgical Procedures For Basal & Squamous Cell Skin Cancers

Basal or squamous cell skin cancers may need to be removed with procedures such as electrodessication and curettage, surgical excision, or Mohs surgery, with possible reconstruction of the skin and surrounding tissue.

Squamous cell cancer can be aggressive, and our surgeons may need to remove more tissue. They may also recommend additional treatments for advanced squamous cell cancer, such as medications or radiation therapyenergy beams that penetrate the skin, killing cancer cells in the body.

Basal cell cancer is less likely to become aggressive, but if it does, our doctors may use surgery and other therapies to treat it.

Itch And Pain In Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer: Pain As An Important Feature Of Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma


Pain is a common feature of cancer with an estimated prevalence rate between 52% and 77%. Itch is the most common dermatologic symptom and is also a common feature of lymphoma. However, no studies have been performed examining the prevalence rates of pain and itch in common skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma are the 2 most common types of nonmelanoma skin cancer . They have a rapidly increasing incidence in the United States, with nearly 4 million new cases of NMSC diagnosed each year. The purpose of the present study was to assess the prevalence and intensity of pain and itch among the 2 most common skin cancers.

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What Is The Connection Between Itching And Skin Cancer

Itching and skin cancer may be closely connected in some cases. Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, for example, is a blood cancer that can also attack the skin. When this happens, itching symptoms may persist throughout the body. Squamous cell carcinoma is a skin cancer that may cause itching in large, red patches of the skin. It is important to note that itching is not always present with skin cancer melanoma and basal cell carcinoma are two types of skin cancer that often do not cause itching.

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is a general term that refers to many lymphomas of the skin. It is specifically a cancer involving the T-lymphocytes, or white blood cells, and also impairs the blood and skin. CTCL is a rare disease, and doctors often mistake it for eczema or dermatitis because patients routinely complain of itchy patches of flat, red and scaly skin.

CTCL may occur in plaque or tumor phases as well. A plaque is a thick, raised skin lesion, while a tumor is a larger lesion that may ulcerate. The most common variation of CTCL is mycosis fungoides, and Sezary syndrome is the advanced stage of this disease. Patients with Sezary syndrome typically have reddened skin that is hot, sore, flaking and itchy.

Is Cancer Causing The Itching

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer Treatment Options

Itching related to cancer is sometimes identical to itching related to skin conditions or other benign causes, but there are some characteristics that may differ.

Signs of cancer-related itching may include:

  • Itching in response to water, which is called aquagenic pruritus
  • Lack of any rash or hives
  • The presence of other symptoms such as a yellowish discoloration of the skin , and the B symptoms, which are body-wide symptoms of lymphoma including fever, weight loss, and drenching night sweats

In addition, itching associated with cancer may feel the worst on the lower legs and chest and may be associated with a burning sensation.

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S Of Squamous Cell Carcinoma On The Skin

The following pictures show many of the ways that SCC can appear on the skin.

Rough-feeling, reddish patch

This is an early sign of squamous cell carcinoma.

Round growth with raised borders

This squamous cell carcinoma developed from a pre-cancerous growth called an actinic keratosis.

A sore that won’t heal or heals and returns

On the skin or lips, squamous cell carcinoma can look like a sore.

Age spot

This can be a sign of squamous cell carcinoma, which is why you want a board-certified dermatologist to examine your skin before you treat any age spot.

Raised, round growth

This is a common sign of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.

Animal’s horn

When squamous cell carcinoma looks like this, it tends to grow quickly.

Because this common skin cancer can begin on any part of the body that has squamous cells, it can also develop inside the mouth, on the genitals, inside the anus, or in the tissue beneath a fingernail or toenail.

In these areas, this skin cancer may look like a:

  • Sore or rough patch

  • Raised, reddish patch

  • Wart-like sore

  • Brown or black line beneath a nail

Sore inside your mouth

This squamous cell carcinoma started inside the mouth and grew to cover a larger area.

Dark streak beneath a nail

Squamous cell carcinoma can look like a brown or black line beneath a nail, as shown here.

When it develops around the nail, it can look like a wart that just wont go away. If youve had a wart around a fingernail for years, its time for a dermatologist to examine it.

Squamous Cell Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck Treatment

Surgery is the preferred management method for the majority of squamous cell skin cancers. Low-risk, early stage, small squamous cell cancers can be removed by Mohs surgery, which is a technique that spares normal tissue through repeated intraoperative margin testing, removing only the cancer and leaving adjacent normal tissue. Excision, curettage and desiccation, and cryosurgery can also be used to remove the cancer while sparing normal tissue. Radiation alone is an alternative for low-risk tumors when surgery is not desirable because of cosmetic concerns or medical reasons.

Large tumors and tumors with nerve or lymph node involvement are not suitable for Mohs surgery and require removal of at least 5-millimeter margins of normal tissue around the cancer and neck dissection for involved lymph nodes. Larger tumors require reconstruction, which can be done at the time of surgery if margin status is clear. Reconstruction should be staged when margins status is not clear.

Patients with high-risk tumors should meet with a radiation therapist to discuss postoperative radiation. Chemotherapy may be added to radiation for extensive lymph node involvement or positive margins that cannot be cleared with additional surgery. In patients with high-risk tumors who are not surgical candidates, systemic treatment with both radiation and chemotherapy is used. Such cases require multidisciplinary care by a team of surgeons, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists.

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How Common Is It

Most often, itching is due to something other than cancer.

It’s uncertain exactly how often itching occurs as a symptom or first symptom of cancer, but it’s estimated that an underlying systemic, or body-wide, diseasesuch as liver disease, kidney disease, blood disorders, or canceris present in 10% to 50% of people who develop itching throughout their body.

This type of itching is known as generalized itching.

In one study looking at almost 17,000 patients with itching in the Johns Hopkins Health System, those who had generalized itching were almost six times more likely to have a cancer than those who did not experience itching.

The cancers that were most commonly associated with itching included:

  • Bile duct cancer

However, itching can be a symptom of a number of other cancers.

In the study, Black patients were more likely to have skin cancer, soft tissue cancers , and blood-related cancers as the underlying cause of their itching. White patients were more likely to have liver cancer, lung cancer, digestive tract cancers, and cancers of the female reproductive tract, such as ovarian cancer.

Among the participants with newly diagnosed cancer, 30% of those with Hodgkin lymphoma, 15% with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, 5% with leukemia, and over 50% of those with disorders known as myeloproliferative neoplasms that cause the overproduction of blood cells had significant itching.

Leukemia is a form of blood cancer that affects the production of white blood cells in bone marrow .


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