What is Metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Erin J. Hill

Metastatic squamous cell carcinoma is a form of cancer which can impact the skin, lips, pancreas, and other areas of the body, which has spread beyond the point where it originated. Some areas are more prone to metastasis than others. For instance, pancreatic squamous cell carcinoma is very aggressive, while most cancers which occur on the skin spread slowly or do not spread at all.

Chemotherapy and radiation treatment may cause hair loss in some patients.
Chemotherapy and radiation treatment may cause hair loss in some patients.

The term metastatic means that the cancer has migrated from its original starting area to another part of the body. This makes it much more difficult to treat, although this depends on where and how far it has spread. Metastatic squamous cell carcinoma usually occurs in the pancreas. Other forms of squamous cell carcinoma are rare or they do not spread as often.

Chemotherapy and radiation are the most common treatment methods for most forms of metastatic squamous cell carcinoma.
Chemotherapy and radiation are the most common treatment methods for most forms of metastatic squamous cell carcinoma.

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One of the most common types of squamous cell carcinoma occurs on the skin. This type of cancer very rarely spreads. When it does, it can move into the blood, neck, or lungs. When caught early, this form of cancer has a high cure rate. When it occurs within internal organs, such as the pancreas, it can make early detection difficult.

Squamous cell carcinoma is most commonly found on areas of the skin that are frequently exposed to sunlight, but these cancers do not spread as quickly as those in other parts of the body.
Squamous cell carcinoma is most commonly found on areas of the skin that are frequently exposed to sunlight, but these cancers do not spread as quickly as those in other parts of the body.

Skin cancers are often found much more easily because they are fully visible. This decreases the risk for metastatic squamous cell carcinoma on the external tissues. Signs of skin cancer include a non-healing wound that may temporarily dry up or scab over and then re-open. Bleeding, oozing, pus, and bruising may also occur.

Symptoms of metastatic squamous cell carcinoma may include digestive upset.
Symptoms of metastatic squamous cell carcinoma may include digestive upset.

Chemotherapy and radiation are the most common treatment methods for most forms of this cancer. Surgery may also be used to remove tumors or lesions in the case of skin cancer. When in its early stages, a surgical removal may be the only necessary treatment. Later stage cancers will likely need a combination of treatments.

Metastatic squamous cell carcinoma is most common in the pancreas.
Metastatic squamous cell carcinoma is most common in the pancreas.

Symptoms can vary, depending on where the cancer is located. Skin cancers may appear as an non-healing wound that may scab over and then become inflamed again. Bleeding may also occur. Other forms may not cause any symptoms until it is in its later stages, then there may be fatigue, nausea, soreness or pain in the area where the cancer has formed, and digestive upset.

Smokers may be more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma than non-smokers.
Smokers may be more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma than non-smokers.

If any unexplained symptoms occur or if a troublesome skin sore doesn’t go away within two weeks, a trip to the doctor is recommended. Metastatic squamous cell carcinoma is more common among those over 45, although it can affect anyone. Since symptoms can be vague and are often found in any number of other conditions, it is a good idea to have more serious issues ruled out.

Squamous cell carcinoma may occur in the neck.
Squamous cell carcinoma may occur in the neck.
Wounds that don't heal may be a sign of skin cancer.
Wounds that don't heal may be a sign of skin cancer.

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