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Squamous Cell Cancer

Cancer that begins in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales. Squamous cells are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Also called epidermoid carcinoma.

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Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin is a skin cancer arising from cells of the surface layer of the skin. SCC is the second most frequent malignant skin tumor after basal cell carcinoma. The Centers for Disease Control estimates over 700,000 new cases of squamous cell carcinoma will be diagnosed in 2016.

Doctors generally divide skin cancer into two stages: local (affecting only the skin) or metastatic (spreading beyond the skin). Squamous cell carcinoma may metastasize more frequently than basal cell carcinoma. In general, however, non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) rarely spreads, a biopsy often is the only test needed to determine the stage. In cases where the growth is very large or has been present for a long time, the doctor will carefully check the lymph nodes in the area. In addition, the patient may need to have additional tests, such as special x-rays, to find out whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Knowing the stage of a skin cancer helps the doctor plan the best treatment.