Stage 3 Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Stage 3 Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Stage 3 Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma is the fourth stage of this common form of skin cancer, which begins in the squamous cells. These cells, or keratinocytes, make up the outer layer of the skin. At this stage the cancer has started to spead past the skin into nearby tissue, bone and lymph nodes. Learn more about the symptoms and treatment of stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma, including Mohs surgery, with expert advice from Sharecare.

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    Stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma is the fourth stage of development of a relatively common type of skin cancer. It begins in the squamous cells, or keratinocytes, which are the major cells that make up the outer layer of skin. Stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma causes scaly, red patches to form on skin, often in sun-exposed areas like the face and neck. During stage 3, squamous cell carcinoma has begun to spread past the skin and into nearby tissue, bone, and lymph nodes.

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    Stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma develops in the squamous cells, or keratinocytes, which make up the outer layer of skin. Normally, these cells go through a growth cycle in which old cells die and are pushed out by new cells continuously. In stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma, the DNA that controls that growth cycle is damaged, most commonly by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. This causes an overgrowth and buildup of squamous cells, which forms a squamous cell carcinoma. If an earlier stage of squamous cell carcinoma is left untreated, it will advance to stage 3, meaning it will grow larger and begin to spread to other areas of the body.

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    Symptoms of stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma usually begin with some kind of skin lesion or growth. Often, the tumors of stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma look like a red bump or a scaly red patch of skin that won't heal. These tumors are often crusty and raised, and they may look like sores or ulcers that last for several weeks. At stage 3, these tumors may be getting larger, both in diameter and in depth. Stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma most commonly develops on areas of skin that are exposed to the sun (such as the face, neck, and arms) but can develop almost anywhere, including the mouth and anus. The lesions are also more likely to develop on skin that's already been damaged, either by a scar or by a chronic skin infection or ulcer.

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    Stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma begins in the squamous cells, or keratinocytes, that make up your top layer of skin. When the DNA that controls the cells' growth is damaged, it causes an overgrowth and buildup of skin cells. This results in a tumor that causes the symptoms you see, such as red bumps or scaly patches on your skin. Stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma most commonly affects areas of skin that are exposed to the sun - especially the face, neck, and arms - but may develop almost anywhere on the body. In this stage, the tumor may be large (more than 2 centimeters in diameter), and it may penetrate through the skin and into facial bone. Stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma may have also begun to spread into nearby lymph nodes, which are structures that help the body's immune system.

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    The most significant risk factor for stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma is leaving earlier stages of squamous cell carcinoma untreated. Another big risk factor is excessive sun exposure, especially exposure to a lot of ultraviolet (UV) rays over an entire lifetime. Having fair skin may increase your risk, because lighter skin doesn't have a lot of pigment to protect from the sun. Medical conditions such as certain genetic disorders, chronic skin inflammation, or a weakened immune system may increase your risk for stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma. Age and sex may also come into play because males and older people are much more commonly affected by the disease. Other risk factors may include smoking and a personal or family history of skin cancer.

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    The first step in diagnosing stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma is usually a physical exam that includes an inspection of your skin and a review of your medical history. Then, if doctors suspect stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma, they will perform a biopsy, which involves removing a part of the affected skin and analyzing it under a microscope. At stage 3, the squamous cell carcinomas are usually larger and deeper, so doctors often surgically remove part or all of the growth for analysis. If doctors suspect that the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, they may also biopsy nearby lymph nodes and other nearby tissue.

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    If you notice symptoms of stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma, you should talk to your doctor. Symptoms are often hard to distinguish from other conditions because they may just look like dry, irritated skin or a pesky sore. However, if you notice any of these symptoms that don't heal after a few weeks, it's a good idea to talk to a doctor. This is especially important because by the time it's reached stage 3, the cancer has already started to spread to other parts of the body. The earlier it's diagnosed and treated, the better your chance for a full recovery, so see a doctor as soon as you notice symptoms.

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    Treatment options for stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma include surgical and non-surgical procedures. Doctors will often start by trying to surgically remove the tumor. Since stage 3 tumors are larger than those of earlier stages, one effective method is a procedure called Mohs surgery, which involves removing the tumor layer by layer and testing each layer for cancer. This method is good for larger tumors or those on areas of thin, sensitive skin because it helps preserve as much tissue as possible. Another common method is simple excision, which involves surgically removing the tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue. Sometimes, doctors may remove the squamous cell carcinoma using curettage and electrodessication, which involves scraping off the top layers of skin and then burning the base of the tumor with an electric needle. In other cases, doctors may recommend cryosurgery (freezing the tumor) or laser therapy (burning the tumor). If the cancer has begun to spread, doctors may recommend radiation therapy and, in some cases, surgical removal of the lymph nodes.

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    Medications aren't usually used to treat stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma. Usually, doctors will first try to remove the cancer through surgery. As a second line of defense, doctors may suggest topical or systemic chemotherapy. In topical chemotherapy, strong drugs may be applied to the skin to kill cancerous cells. This method is usually used for very shallow tumors, so it's not often used in stage 3. Systemic chemotherapy uses medications taken orally or intravenously to destroy the cancer cells. This treatment may be beneficial if the cancer has started to spread to the bones or lymph nodes.

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    Alternative treatments won't cure stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma, but some options may help improve general health when used along with other medical treatment. A balanced diet rich in antioxidants may be beneficial to people with stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma. Vitamin supplements, especially vitamin D, may be used in addition to a healthful diet. Some people with stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma may benefit from relaxation techniques like yoga and exercise to cope with the stress of diagnosis and treatment. Other alternative treatments may include meditation and prayer.