New Patient Resource from NCCN Clears up Confusion around Highly Common Type of Skin Cancer

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

New NCCN Guidelines for Patients: Squamous Cell Skin Cancer explains risk factors and treatment options for cancer type that impacts millions every year.

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—the second-most common skin cancer (after basal cell cancer). Squamous cell and basal cell skin cancers are responsible for about 5 million annual incidents of non-melanoma skin cancer in the United States[1]—making them more prevalent than all other types of cancer combined[2]. Incidence rates have been rising for squamous cell skin cancer in recent years, particularly in younger people[3]. 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, 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 skin cancer patients 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.”

Repeat incidences of squamous cell skin cancer can be common, but 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 spreading and being hard to cure. There are ways to prevent new tumors, including daily sunscreen use, prescription creams to reverse sun damage, and a certain type of vitamin pill.

“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 six-to-eight weeks or seems to be changing.”

NCCN Guidelines for Patients and NCCN Quick Guide™ sheets DO NOT replace the expertise and clinical judgment of the clinician.

To help support these tools, visit NCCNFoundation.org/donate or text “GIVE” to 856-FOR-NCCN (856-367-6226).

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About the NCCN Foundation

The NCCN Foundation® was founded by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) to empower people with cancer and advance oncology innovation. The NCCN Foundation empowers people with cancer and their caregivers by delivering unbiased expert guidance from the world’s leading cancer experts through the library of NCCN Guidelines for Patients® and other patient education resources. The NCCN Foundation is also committed to advancing cancer treatment by funding the nation’s promising young investigators at the forefront of cancer research. For more information about the NCCN Foundation, visit NCCN.org/patients.

About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) is a not-for-profit alliance of 28 leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research, and education. NCCN is dedicated to improving and facilitating quality, effective, efficient, and accessible cancer care so patients can live better lives. Through the leadership and expertise of clinical professionals at NCCN Member Institutions, NCCN develops resources that present valuable information to the numerous stakeholders in the health care delivery system. By defining and advancing high-quality cancer care, NCCN promotes the importance of continuous quality improvement and recognizes the significance of creating clinical practice guidelines appropriate for use by patients, clinicians, and other health care decision-makers around the world. Clinicians, visit NCCN.org. Patients and caregivers, visit NCCN.org/patients. Media, visit NCCN.org/news. Follow NCCN on Twitter @NCCNnews and Facebook @National.Comprehensive.Cancer.Network.

About Save Your Skin Foundation

Save Your Skin Foundation (SYSF) is a Canadian national patient-led not-for-profit group dedicated to fighting against non-melanoma skin cancers, melanoma and ocular melanoma through nationwide education, advocacy, and awareness initiatives. Save Your Skin Foundation is committed to playing an active role in reducing the incidence of skin cancer, and ensuring equal, timely, and affordable access to best care and compassionate support for all Canadians living with skin cancers, wherever they are in their journey. www.saveyourskin.ca