Squamous cell carcinoma: Tips for managing

Most people diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) have a very good prognosis. When caught early and removed, this skin cancer has an excellent cure rate.

Risk

Anyone who has had SCC has a higher risk for getting another skin cancer. To help patients manage this higher risk, dermatologists recommend the following:

Keep all follow-up appointments with your dermatologist. When found early, skin cancer usually can be cured. Even melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, has a cure rate of nearly 100% when found early and treated.

Perform skin self-exams.
Patients who are diagnosed with skin cancer are taught how to examine their own skin for signs of skin cancer. Be sure to examine your own skin as often as recommended by your dermatologist.

If you see anything on your skin that is growing, bleeding, or in any way changing, immediately call your dermatologist’s office. Change can be a sign of skin cancer. Found early and treated, skin cancer can be cured.

Protect your skin from the sun and indoor tanning. This is essential to prevent further damage, which can increase the risk of getting another skin cancer. Here are tips that dermatologists give their patients to help them protect their skin:

  • Wear sunscreen and lip balm that offer sun protection. Apply these daily, even in the winter, and be sure to use sunscreen and lip balm that offer:
    • SPF 30 or higher.
    • Broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) protection.
    • Water resistance.
  • Apply the sunscreen and lip balm to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors.
  • Apply the sunscreen to every part of your body that will not be covered by clothing. 
  • Whenever possible wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and pants. 
  • Wear sunglasses to protect the skin around your eyes.
  • Avoid outdoor activities when the sun is strongest — between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Avoid tanning and never use a tanning bed or sun lamp.
Use condoms. Your dermatologist may recommend using condoms. This can prevent an HPV infection, which reduces the risk for getting SCC on the genitals.

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink and do not smoke. Smoking and drinking alcohol can increase your risk of getting SCC in your mouth.

Relates resources:

Learn more about squamous cell carcinoma:

References:

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.

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