What Is Squamous Cell Neck Cancer?

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  • Written By: Cindy Quarters
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2018
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Squamous cell carcinoma is a common type of skin cancer. Other common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. Skin cancer is often caused by exposure to the sun, but it can occur on any part of the body, even if it is usually covered. Squamous cell neck cancer occurs when the squamous cells of the neck, the cells just under the surface of the skin, become damaged and no longer function properly.

Ultraviolet (UV) damage is the most likely cause of squamous cell neck cancer. When the body is functioning properly, DNA controls the growth of new skin cells and the sloughing off of the old cells. If the DNA becomes damaged, usually by UV rays from the sun or from the use of a tanning bed, the skin no longer develops properly. The system ceases to work, and skin cancer is the eventual result.

Symptoms of squamous cell neck cancer include a firm, red bump on the neck that may bleed occasionally, a flat, crusty, scaly lesion or a pre-existing scar or lesion that develops a new bump or ulceration on top of it. Any of these symptoms should be taken seriously and should be checked by a physician as soon as it is discovered. Such problems may not be signs of squamous cell neck cancer, but they should be investigated to make sure.


If a person develops squamous cell neck cancer, it is usually readily treatable, with a good outcome, especially if it is discovered and treated early. If it is not treated, there is a chance that it can spread, becoming larger and invading the lymphatic system, metastasizing (spreading) to other organs and causing serious complications, possibly even death. Fortunately, these kinds of problems are rare, and most squamous cell neck cancer has a good prognosis.

When a person is diagnosed with squamous cell neck cancer, the first step is to remove the cancerous growth completely. This usually involves surgery, but, since the tumor is on the skin, the surgery is typically fairly minor. The doctor will check to make sure all of the cancer is removed, sometimes looking layer by layer to see if any abnormal cells remain. Instead of surgery, lasers, chemicals or freezing may be used to remove the tumor. To complete the removal of squamous cell neck cancer, doctors will often follow up with radiation and chemotherapy, to make sure that no cancer cells are left to grow back, thus completing the cure.



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