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Squamous cell carcinoma - a very common form of nonmelanoma skin cancer that originates in the squamous cells - becomes metastatic when it spreads (metastasizes) beyond the primary cancer site and affects other areas of the body. Metastatic squamous cell carcinoma is uncommon but can develop if the primary cancer is not surgically removed or treated in a timely manner. 

What are the signs of metastatic squamous cell carcinoma?  

Squamous cell carcinoma at any stage can appear as a scaly red patch, a firm nodule or a flat or raised sore that may crust over. Because the appearance of this cancer can vary considerably, it’s a good idea to consult with a physician if any skin abnormalities develop. Squamous cell carcinoma is more likely to appear on skin that is exposed to sunlight, such as on the face or neck, although it sometimes occurs on the bottom of feet, inside the mouth or around the genitals. 

Metastatic squamous cell carcinoma is often referred to as a neck cancer because it tends to travel to the lymph nodes in the neck and around the collarbone. Because of this, signs of metastasis may include a painful or tender lump in the neck or a sore throat that doesn’t improve or go away.   

How is metastatic squamous cell carcinoma treated?

Each patient’s ideal course of metastatic squamous cell carcinoma treatment will vary according to the location of the primary cancer, how far it has spread, the overall health of the patient and several other factors. Many treatment plans include a combination of surgery to remove skin lesions and affected lymph nodes, as well as chemotherapy and radiation therapy to help shrink or destroy cancer cells that have traveled to other parts of the body.   

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Cutaneous Oncology Program offers a full spectrum of diagnostics and leading-edge treatment options to patients with squamous cell carcinoma of any stage. To speak with a Moffitt oncologist specializing in skin cancer, submit a new patient registration form online or call 1-888-663-3488.