Squamous cell carcinoma: Signs and symptoms

Squamous cell carcinoma: Signs and symptoms

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This skin cancer often develops on skin that has soaked up the sun for years. The face, ears, lips, backs of the hands, arms, and legs are common places for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) to form. Signs include:

  • A bump or lump on the skin that can feel rough.
  • As the bump or lump grows, it may become dome-shaped or crusty and can bleed.
  • A sore that doesn’t heal, or heals and returns.
  • Flat, reddish, scaly patch that grows slowly (Bowen’s disease).
  • In rare cases, SCC begins under a nail, which can grow and destroy the nail.

SCC can begin in a pre-cancerous growth

Some SCCs begin in a pre-cancerous growth called an actinic keratosis (ak-ti-nik ker-ah-TOE-sis), or AK. In adults 40 and older, it is believed that about 40 to 60 percent of SCCs begin in an AK. Signs and symptoms of an AK include:

  • Small, pink, rough, dry, scaly patch or growth on skin.
  • Rough patch or growth that feels irritated or even painful when rubbed.
  • Itching or burning on a patch of skin.
  • Lips feel constantly dry and have a whitish color or feel scaly.

Learn more about squamous cell carcinoma:

References:

Ferrucci LM, Cartmel B, Molinaro AM et al. “Indoor tanning and risk of early-onset basal cell carcinoma.” J Am Acad Dermatol  10.1016/j.jaad.2011.11.940. (Article in Press).

Grossman D, Leffell DJ. “Squamous cell carcinoma.” In: Wolff K et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th edition. USA. McGraw Hill Medical; 2008, p. 1028-36.

Habif TP, Campbell JL, Chapman JGH et al. “Bowen’s disease,” In: Dermatology DDxDeck. China; 2006.

Riddel C, Rashid R, Thomas V. “Ungual and periungual human papillomavirus associated squamous cell carcinoma: A review.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2011;64:1147-53.

Images 1-7 used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.

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