The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN) has published a new book of patient information that explains prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for squamous cell skin cancer. Squamous cell and basal cell skin cancers are responsible for about 5 million annual incidents of nonmelanoma skin cancer in the United States—making them more prevalent than all other types of cancer combined. Incidence rates have been rising for squamous cell skin cancer in recent years, particularly in younger people.
The new booklet, NCCN Guidelines for Patients: Squamous Cell Skin Cancer, is endorsed by the Save Your Skin Foundation, and made possible by funding through the NCCN Foundation. The guidelines are available to view and download free of charge at NCCN.org/patients, or via the NCCN Patient Guides for Cancer App.
“When people are first diagnosed with squamous cell skin cancer, many of them confuse it for melanoma, or think it could turn into melanoma,” explained Chrysalyne D. Schmults, MD, of Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, and Member of the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) Panel for Squamous Cell Skin Cancer. “The information contained in these guidelines helps clarify that this is an entirely different tumor. Instead of appearing like a brown spot or changing mole, these tumors usually look more like a persistent bump. Thankfully, the vast majority can be fully cured by an in-office removal procedure.”
“The NCCN Guidelines for Patients tackle complex information in a readable manner, making them an invaluable resource for people with cancer, as well as their caregivers and family members,” said Ken Braun, Project Benefits Specialist, Employers Health, and squamous cell skin cancer survivor. “Squamous cell skin cancer was my second cancer diagnosis. After my physician first said I had cancer, I remembered very little during the rest of the exam. A friend sent me the NCCN Guidelines for Patients for my original cancer, which was the best resource for current, accurate information I have found. It gave me and my wife a measure of comfort and confidence, plus the ability to have meaningful discussions with my physicians about treatment and recovery.”
"Save Your Skin Foundation has every confidence that the new NCCN Guidelines for Squamous Cell Carcinoma will help patients understand and manage their skin cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recommended follow-up routine,” said Natalie Richardson, Managing Director, Save Your Skin Foundation. “This comprehensive resource gives [patients with] skin cancer a reliable checklist to inform decisions in their care, which is much-needed for this common form of cancer, and even more so if patients present with advanced disease.”
Preventing Recurrence and New Tumors
Repeat incidences of squamous cell skin cancer can be common. According to Dr. Schmults, it is rarely due to an actual recurrence, but rather represents an entirely new tumor. She emphasized the importance of letting survivors know that getting more than one squamous cell tumor is not unusual. However, doctors and patients should work to minimize skin cancers because people who get many (10 or more) have a high risk of cancer metastasizing. There are ways to prevent new tumors, including daily sunscreen use, prescription creams to reverse sun damage, and certain vitamins.
“Patients tend to be Caucasian and in their 70s or 80s at the time of diagnosis,” said Dr. Schmults. “The tumors are most likely to appear on the head, neck, hands, feet, or shins. For reasons we don’t yet understand, men are more likely than women to have negative outcomes, though the full cure rate is in the high 90th percentile for both. Anyone, at any age, should feel comfortable asking their dermatologist about a biopsy if they have a bump or flaky spot on their skin that lasts more than 6 to 8 weeks or seems to be changing.”
The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.