Squamous Cell Carcinoma Diagnosis

How is it found?

Your doctor will examine your skin. He or she may remove the growth or part of it. This is called a skin biopsy. A biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis.

To get a sample of the skin/suspicious spot, the area will be numbed with a medication injected into the skin. Then the doctor (often a dermatologist or skin doctor) will cut the skin to get a sample of tissue. A different doctor (called a pathologist or dermatopathologist) will look at this tissue under the microscope to check for cancer cells. There are several types of biopsies.

Ask your doctor when he/she will review the results with you.

Can it spread beyond the skin?

SCC usually grows slowly and is contained to the outer layer of the skin. In some cases, especially if it is untreated, it can invade nearby tissue.

If multiple surgeries are needed, it can be disfiguring and may affect function. For example, if SCC grows deeply on the lower lip, surgeries to remove it may cause cosmetic issues, and also interfere with someone’s ability to smile or close their mouth.

Although rare, it is possible for SCC to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What type of biopsy will be done?
  • How soon will I know the results?
  • What stage is my cancer?
  • What treatment is most likely to work?
  • Are there side effects I need to be aware of?
  • How likely is it that it will return?
  • What should I be doing to help protect myself in the future?
  • Do you have experience treating this type of cancer, or know someone who does?