Stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma is the final stage of this common form of skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the squamous cells, or keratinocytes, which make up the outer layer of the skin. By this stage, the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, bones, nearby tissues and other organs in the body. Treatment varies, depending on the size of the tumor and how far the cancer has spread. Learn more about diagnosing and treating stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma with expert advice from Sharecare.

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    If you notice symptoms of stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma, you should talk to your doctor right away. Symptoms are often hard to distinguish from other conditions because they may 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 4, the cancer has already started to spread throughout the body.

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    Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma begins 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 4 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 4, meaning the tumor will grow larger and will spread throughout the body.

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    The first step in diagnosing stage 4 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 4 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 4, the squamous cell carcinomas are often relatively large and deep, 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 the lymph nodes and other surrounding tissue.

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    Sun exposure is one of the most significant risk factors for stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma. Sun exposure, especially over an adult's whole lifetime, greatly increases the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation your skin gets. It's thought that those UV rays are what may damage DNA and initially cause stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma. Because of this risk, it's a good idea to avoid excessive sun exposure and to protect your skin with sunscreen and protective clothing.

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    Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma is the fifth and final 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 4 squamous cell carcinoma causes scaly, red patches to form on skin, often in sun-exposed areas like the face and neck. In stage 4, squamous cell carcinoma has spread past the skin and into nearby tissue, bone, lymph nodes, and other organs throughout the body.

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    Caring for someone with stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma involves supporting them both physically and emotionally. Diagnosis and treatment are especially difficult times during which your loved one will need your support, especially if more intensive treatment is required. After treatment, ensure they see their doctor for regular follow-up appointments. Encourage them to check their skin frequently and to protect their skin from the sun. Remember that being diagnosed with stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma can cause a lot of emotional stress, so support them as much as possible as they cope with the disease's emotional challenges.

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    Treatment options for stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma may vary depending on the size of the tumor and how far it's spread. Doctors will often start by trying to surgically remove the tumor. One effective method is a procedure called Mohs surgery, which involves cutting out the tumor layer by layer and testing each layer for cancer. This procedure 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. If the cancer has spread, treatment will be more intensive. Doctors may recommend radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and, in some cases, surgical removal of the lymph nodes. Talk to your doctor about finding the best treatment option for you.

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    Managing your stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma on a daily basis begins with treatment. Since stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma has spread throughout the body, treatment may be more intensive and more physically and emotionally draining. Because of this, it's important to take advantage of resources like counseling, support groups, and friends and family. Once you've been treated, you should check in with your doctor regularly to make sure the cancer hasn't come back or spread, especially within the first year following treatment. It's also very important to continue checking your own skin frequently, particularly in the area where the tumor originally occurred. Protect your skin from the sun with sunscreen and long-sleeved clothing. Taking care of your overall health is important for managing stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma, so eat a balanced diet and don't smoke.

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    Symptoms of stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma usually begin with some kind of skin lesion or growth. Often, the tumors of squamous cell carcinoma look like a scaly red patch of skin that won't heal. These tumors are often crusty and raised, and they may cause sores or ulcers that last for several weeks. At stage 4, these tumors may be large, both in diameter and in depth. Stage 4 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. 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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    Squamous cell carcinoma at any stage, including stage 4, very rarely affects children. The average age when people are first diagnosed with the condition is 66 years old. In general, younger people are starting to be affected by squamous cell carcinoma much more frequently. However, it's still quite rare for children to develop this condition because it's often caused by a lifetime of exposure to ultraviolet radiation.