How Fast Does Skin Cancer Grow
Skin cancer starts when cells in the skin grow out of control. Some forms of skin cancer tend to grow in a matter of weeks, while others grow over months or longer. While a number of factors determine how fast or slow skin cancer may grow in any one individual, some types of skin cancer are more aggressive than others. In the space below, we look at typical growth rates for some specific types of cancer.
What Is Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. Its usually found on areas of the body damaged by UV rays from the sun or tanning beds. Sun-exposed skin includes the head, neck, chest, upper back, ears, lips, arms, legs, and hands.
SCC is a fairly slow-growing skin cancer. Unlike other types of skin cancer, it can spread to the tissues, bones, and nearby lymph nodes, where it may become hard to treat. When caught early, its easy to treat.
SCC can show up as:
- A dome-shaped bump that looks like a wart
- A red, scaly patch of skin thats rough and crusty and bleeds easily
- An open sore that doesnt heal completely
- A growth with raised edges and a lower area in the middle that might bleed or itch
Treating Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Most of squamous cell carcinomas can be cured if they are treated early. Once squamous cell carcinoma has spread beyond the skin, though, less than half of people live five years, even with aggressive treatment.
There are many ways to treat squamous cell carcinoma that has not spread. These include:
- cutting away the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it. If a large area of skin is removed, a skin graft may be necessary.
- scraping away the cancer with a surgical tool. An electric probe is used to kill any cancerous cells left behind.
- freezing cancer cells with liquid nitrogen. This treatment is usually used only for very small tumors or for a patch of skin that looks abnormal but isn’t yet cancerous.
- destroying the tumor with radiation.
- shaving away the cancer, one thin layer at a time. Each layer is examined under the microscope as it is removed. This technique helps the doctor preserve as much healthy skin as possible.
- applying drugs directly to the skin or injecting them into the tumor
- using a narrow laser beam to destroy the cancer.
The treatment that is best for you depends on the size and location of the cancer, whether it has returned after previous treatment, your age, and your general health.
Once your treatment is finished, it’s important to have regular follow-up skin exams. Your doctor may want to see you every three months for the first year, for example, and then less often after that.
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How Is Squamous Cell Carcinoma Of The Skin Treated When It Spreads
When this cancer spreads beyond the skin, it travels to the lymph nodes or other organs. Once it spreads, a patient has advanced cancer.
If you’ve been diagnosed with advanced SCC, you will be cared for by a team of medical professionals. This team will include oncologists . Your treatment plan may include one or more of the following:
Surgery: When surgery can remove the cancer and youre healthy enough to have surgery, this is often the preferred treatment. After surgery, another treatment, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, is often given. Adding another treatment helps to kill cancer cells.
Radiation therapy: Radiation can target cancer cells in the skin, lymph nodes, or other areas of the body. When a patient has advanced SCC, radiation therapy is often used along with another treatment.
Immunotherapy: This type of treatment helps strengthen your immune system so that it can fight the cancer. Drugs called immunotherapy medications are given for this purpose.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved one immunotherapy medication for the treatment of advanced SCC of the skin. Its called cemiplimab-rwlc.
In the clinical trials that led the FDA to approve cemiplimab-rwlc, about half the patients who had advanced SCC of the skin had their tumors shrink. In many patients who had tumor shrinkage, the shrinking lasted 6 months or longer. A few patients had their tumors disappear completely.
Pembrolizumab is also given by IV infusion.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Screening
Diagnosis and management of Squamous Cell Carcinoma is best performed via a Full Body Scan. In the first incidence, this process includes
- Digitally Mapping a patient’s entire body for any suspicious skin damage or lesion
- Followed by a detailed Dermoscopic Examination by a trained skin cancer Specialist
- Recording and combining all images and skin metrics into the patient record
Our expert Doctors at Bondi Junction Skin Cancer Clinic will then clearly identify and diagnose any skin cancers. Having a digital molemap or a baseline of all your skins sun damage for all family members with
- any suspicious sun damage,
- those with a large number of moles, or
- have been diagnosed with melanoma is recommended.
Any changes can be more easily spotted and understood.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Squamous Cell Skin Cancer
Squamous cell cancers are usually raised growths, ranging from the size of a pea to the size of a chestnut. They may appear as scaly red patches, open sores or protruding growths with a dented center, or they may look like a wart. Most are found in areas of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the ears, lips, face, balding scalp, neck, hands, arms, and legs. Less commonly, they may appear on mucous membranes and genitals. Regardless of what form the bumps take, they do not heal or go away on their own.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Causes
Exposure to ultraviolet rays, like the ones from the sun or a tanning bed, affects the cells in the middle and outer layers of your skin and can cause them to make too many cells and not die off as they should. This can lead to out-of-control growth of these cells, which can lead to squamous cell carcinoma.
Other things can contribute to this kind of overgrowth, too, like conditions that affect your immune system.
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Answer: Squamous Cell Carcinoma Growth
While it is said that most skin cancers grow slowly, the true answer is “it depends”. It depends on location of the skin cancer, your general health, the health of your skin and the cause of the skin cancer. Most squamous cell carcinomas arise in skin damaged by ultra violet light and, often, grow slowly. However, if the UV damage is severe or if the SCC arose from a burn or infection site, the cancer can grow rapidly and spread to other organs. Additionally, SCC, which grows contiguously will sometimes send “seeds” beyond the tissue containing the “roots”. These factors all have to be considered in determining how to deal with SCC. The best advice I can give you is to not delay and have this evaluated by a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon. I hope I have answered your question. Best. jlr
What Are The Risk Factors For Squamous Cell Skin Cancer
Squamous cell skin cancer is mainly caused by cumulative ultraviolet exposure from the sun, according to Dr. Leffell.
Daily year-round exposure to the suns UV light and intense exposure in the summer months add to the damage that causes this type of cancer, he says. People at the highest risk for squamous cell skin cancer tend to have light or fair-colored skin blue, green or gray eyes a history of sun exposure and a tendency to sunburn quickly. Squamous cell cancers occur four times more frequently in men than in women.
Although squamous cell cancer can be more aggressive than basal cell cancer, the risk of this type of cancer spreading is lowas long as the cancer is treated early, Dr. Leffell says. He notes that the lesions must be treated with respect because they may grow rapidly and invade deeply. While it is more difficult to treat squamous cell cancer that has metastasized, up to half of cases can be cured.
In a small percentage of cases, squamous cell skin cancer can grow along the tiny nerves in the skin. In this very serious condition, the squamous cell cancer of the face or scalp can travel along the nerves and spread to the brain.
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What Is Squamous Cell Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck
Skin malignancies are the most common cancer in the United States, responsible for more than half of all new cancer cases. These can be broken down into melanoma and non-melanoma malignancies, which are squamous cell cancer and basal cell cancer. These skin malignancies are caused by ultraviolet radiation from exposure to the sun and tanning beds.
Squamous cell cancer is the second most common form of skin cancer. It is more aggressive and may require extensive surgery depending on location and nerve involvement. Radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy are used in advanced cases.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Prevention
Anyone who has had one Squamous Cell Carcinoma has an increased chance of developing another, especially in the same skin area or nearby. That is usually because the skin has already suffered irreversible sun damage.
Thus, it is crucial to pay particular attention to any previously treated site, and any changes noted should be shown immediately to your Doctor at the Bondi Junction Skin Cancer Clinic.
Squamous Cell Carcinomas on the nose, ears, and lips are especially prone to recurrence.
Even if no suspicious signs are noticed, regularly scheduled follow-up visits including total-body skin exams are an essential part of post-treatment care every 6 months.
To prevent Squamous Cell Carcinoma make sure you follow the recommendations below:
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Prevention Of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Because basal cell carcinoma is often caused by sun exposure, people can help prevent this cancer by doing the following:
Avoiding the sun: For example, seeking shade, minimizing outdoor activities between 10 AM and 4 PM , and avoiding sunbathing and the use of tanning beds
Wearing protective clothing: For example, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and broad-brimmed hats
Using sunscreen: At least sun protection factor 30 with UVA and UVB protection used as directed and reapplied every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating but not used to prolong sun exposure
In addition, any skin change that lasts for more than a few weeks should be evaluated by a doctor.
Prognosis Of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Treatment of basal cell carcinoma is nearly always successful, and the cancer is rarely fatal. However, almost 25% of people with a history of basal cell carcinoma develop a new basal cell cancer within 5 years of the first one. Thus, anyone with one basal cell carcinoma should have a yearly skin examination.
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General Prognosis After Treatment
An individual’s prognosis depends on the type and stage of cancer, as well as their age and general health at the time of diagnosis. The majority of Squamous Cell Carcinoma cancers are successfully treated.
When small Squamous Cell Carcinomas are removed, the scars are usually cosmetically quite acceptable. If the tumours are very large, a skin graft or flap may be used to repair the wound in order to achieve the best cosmetic result and facilitate healing.
Cancer Stage Determines Risk Of Spreading And Line Of Treatment
A cancer of the upper layers of the skin in the epidermis, SCC is the second most common form of skin cancer after basal cell carcinoma and affects an estimated 1 million new people every year in the United States alone. Cancer staging is done for SCC with the intention of categorizing the size of cancer and to judge how much it has grown. And theres a clear line of treatment and way forward for each stage.1
With skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma, the likelihood of cancer spreading to other parts of the body is very low and early diagnosis and treatment usually tackles the problem before it spreads. SCC, however, is a little trickier. While the risk of spreading is still quite small, there is a relatively higher chance of it progressing depending on what stage the cancer is at. For those with weakened immune systems, say, people whove had organ transplants or anyone infected with HIV, the risk is a little higher. Also, when the cancer is in the head and neck region, it may have a slightly higher risk of recurring or spreading.2
The actual stage of this form of cancer is determined based on the TNM protocol devised by the American Joint Commission on Cancer.3
- T : The size/extent of the tumor
- N : Whether it has spread to lymph nodes
- M : Whether it has spread to other parts of the body
More Information About Basal Cell Carcinoma
The following are some English-language resources that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.
See the following sites for comprehensive information about basal cell carcinoma, including detection, prevention, treatment options, and other resources:
Symptoms Of Basal Cell Carcinoma
There are several types of basal cell carcinomas.
The nodular type of basal cell carcinoma usually begins as small, shiny, firm, almost clear to pink in color, raised growth. After a few months or years, visible dilated blood vessels may appear on the surface, and the center may break open and form a scab. The border of the cancer is sometimes thickened and pearly white. The cancer may alternately bleed and form a scab and heal, leading a person to falsely think that it is a sore rather than a cancer.
Other types of basal cell carcinomas vary greatly in appearance. For example, the superficial type appears as flat thin red or pink patches, and the morpheaform type appears as thicker flesh-colored or light red patches that look somewhat like scars.
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Mohs Micrographic Surgery For Squamous Cell Carcinoma
It is often used on tumours that have recurred, are poorly demarcated, or are in hard-to-treat, critical areas around the eyes, nose, lips, ears, neck, hands and feet.
Mohs Micrographic Surgery Treatment Process – Using a scalpel or curette , a Mohs Surgeon removes the visible Squamous Cell Carcinoma with a very thin layer of tissue around it. While the patient waits, this layer is sectioned, frozen, stained and mapped in detail, then checked thoroughly under a microscope.
If cancer is still present in the depths or peripheries of this excised surrounding tissue, the procedure is repeated on the adjacent area of the body which still contains tumour cells until the last layer viewed under the microscope is cancer-free.
Mohs Micrographic Surgery Treatment Recovery – After tumour removal, the wound may be allowed to heal naturally or may be reconstructed immediately.
Mohs Micrographic Surgery Prognosis – The cosmetic outcome is often excellent.
Treatment Of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Removal of the tumor
Doctors may remove the cancer in the office by scraping and burning it with an electric needle or by cutting it out. Doctors may destroy the cancer by using extreme cold .
A technique called Mohs microscopically controlled surgery may be required for some basal cell carcinomas that are large or regrow or occur in certain areas, such as around the nose and eyes.
People whose cancer has spread to nearby tissues or spread to other parts of the body and who are not candidates for surgery or radiation therapy may be given the drug vismodegib or sonidegib taken by mouth.
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Symptoms Of Squamous Cell Carcinoma
A key factor used to identify a Squamous Cell Carcinomas is any ongoing change that persists beyond a few weeks in a lesion on the skin.
Squamous Cell Carcinomas typically appear as persistent, thick, rough, scaly patches that can bleed if bumped, scratched or scraped.
If you observe two or more of the signs below, you should consult the Bondi Junction Skin Cancer Clinic immediately.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma can sometimes resemble non-cancerous skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema.
What Are The Signs Of Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinomas are more typical on sun-exposed skin: the scalp, the backs of the hands, the ears, and the lips. But this form of skin cancer can spread anywhere on your body.
Squamous cell carcinomas will have these characteristics:
- A firm, red nodule
- A flat sore with a scaly crust
- A new sore or raised area on an old scar
- A rough, scaly patch on your lip that can become an open sore
- A red sore or rough patch inside your mouth
- A red, raised patch or wart-like sore on or in the anus or on the genitals
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Symptoms And Signs Of Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Oral lesions are asymptomatic initially, highlighting the need for oral screening. Most dental professionals carefully examine the oral cavity and oropharynx during routine care and may do a brush biopsy of abnormal areas. The lesions may appear as areas of erythroplakia or leukoplakia and may be exophytic or ulcerated. Cancers are often indurated and firm with a rolled border. As the lesions increase in size, pain, dysarthria, and dysphagia may result.
This photo shows a close-up of the inside of the mouth in a patient with squamous cell carcinoma of the oral mucosa.
Erythroplakia is a general term for red, flat, or eroded velvety lesions that develop in the mouth. In this image, an exophytic squamous cell carcinoma on the tongue is surrounded by a margin of erythroplakia.
Leukoplakia is a general term for white hyperkeratotic plaques that develop in the mouth. About 80% are benign. However, in this image, squamous cell carcinoma is present in one of the leukoplakic lesions on the ventral surface of the tongue .