Knowing the Signs of Skin Cancer
- Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee has been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a common and treatable but still serious type of skin cancer.
- Squamous cell carcinoma develops in the squamous cells that make up the middle and outer layers of the skin.
- Squamous cell carcinoma most commonly occurs on areas exposed to the sun including your scalp, backs of your hands, ears, and lips. But it can occure anywhere on the body, including the inside of the mouth.
- Common signs of SCC include firm red nodule or lump on the skin, flat sore or raised area on an old scar or ulcer, a rough or scaly patch on your lip that may evolve to an open sore, or a red sore or rough patch inside your mouth.
- Squamous cell carcinoma can be removed with surgery or medicine applied to the skin.
“It’s never easy to hear the words you have cancer. But I know that so many other families have gone through a cancer diagnosis,” Kildee said in a statement.Read More
The congressman-turned-cancer warrior said he is preparing for surgery to remove the cancer in the coming weeks.
“I am going to get through this. I’m going to beat cancer,” Kildee said confidently as he prepares for his cancer journey. He added that his doctor said it will take a few weeks to recover from the surgery.
What Is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Squamous cell carcinoma is a common form of skin cancer that develops in the squamous cells that make up the middle and outer layers of the skin, according to Mayo Clinic. While the cancer is usually not life-threatening, if untreated it can grow and spread to other parts of the body.
Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds is a common cause of squamous cell carcinomas.
About two out of 10 skin cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, according to the American Cancer Society.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Symptoms and Risk Factors
Squamous cell carcinoma most commonly occurs on areas exposed to the sun, including your scalp, backs of your hands, ears, and lips. However, as Kildee has demonstrated, SCC can develop anywhere on the body, such as inside the mouth. It can also occur on the bottoms of the feet and even the on the genitals.
Some signs and symptoms, according to Mayo Clinic, can include:
- Firm red nodule or lump on the skin.
- Flat sore or raised area on an old scar or ulcer
- Rough, scaly patch on your lip that may evolve to an open sore
- Red sore or rough patch inside your mouth
- Red, raised patch or wartlike sore on the anus or genitals
Risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma may include:
- Fair skin
- Excessive sun exposure
- Use of tanning beds
- History of sunburns
- Personal history of precancerous skin lesions
- Person history of skin cancer
- Weakened immune system
- People with a rare genetic disorder such as xeroderma pigmentosum which causes an extreme sensitivity to sunlight.
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Preventative steps such as limit exposure to sunlight between 10 a.m.-3 p.m., wearing sunscreen and avoiding tanning beds all help decrease your chances of getting squamous cell carcinoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma can be removed with surgery or medicine applied to the skin. Mayo Clinic lists treatments for small skin cancers to include:
- Laser therapy
- Photodynamic therapy which combines photosensitizing drugs and light treatment to treat skin cancers.
- Curettage and electrodessication (C and E) involve removing surface of the skin with a scraping tool then searing the base of the cancer.
Larger skin cancers can be treated with either cutting the cancerous skin tissue through simple excision, radiation therapy or Mohs surgery, in which thin layers of the cancerous tissue is removed until clear tissue is reached.
If the skin cancer is spreading to other parts of the body, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy and immunotherapy are options.
Coping With a Diagnosis
As Congressman Kildee said, receiving a cancer diagnosis is never easy to process, but SurvivorNet doctors recommend not blaming yourself for the disease.
One helpful suggestion for cancer warriors at the start of their cancer journeys is to learn more about the disease to calm the fear of the unknown. Also asking your doctor additional questions and even seeking a second opinion can help ease the initial shock and anxiety associated with a new diagnosis.
“I think it’s really important for them to be able to hear it multiple times, take notes,” Dr. Heather Yeo, colorectal surgeon at Weill Cornell Medicine said.
“I support second opinions. I actually think it’s really important. I mean, if you think about it in life, how do you choose someone to cut your hair? You get an opinion, right? You usually don’t just go in and sit down with the first person you see on the street and say, cut my hair. You ask around,” Dr. Yeo added.
Kildee credited his family and staff for their support as he continues to process his diagnosis and prepares for surgery. Turning towards family and loved ones is another suggestion SurvivorNet experts recommend for cancer warriors embarking on their cancer journeys.
It’s important for cancer warriors to know they have a strong support group behind them. It helps them alleviate anxiety and depression as cancer treatments become more intense over time.
Dr. Shelly Tworoger, a researcher at Moffitt Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet that “there’s a number of common things cancer patients can experience, such as anxiety, depression, financial toxicity, social isolation.” Knowing you have loved ones by your side at every step and help you process those emotions and cope with your new reality during your journey.
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