Tom Alter a legendary theatre artist and also well known and respected film artist has been diagnosed with skin cancer, as per his son Jamie’s recent statements. Jamie Alter told the media, “It is what is called a squamous cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer). It is a relapse of the same thing which had happened last year and unfortunately, for various reasons, it was not detected at that time and has come back and is in stage four, he further said. “He is fighting it well. He is showing the will to battle it out”. iKarmik, tells you more about this cancer and the treatment options that Tom Alter has, to get cured of it.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising in the squamous cells, which compose most of the skin’s upper layers (the epidermis). SCCs often look like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression, or warts; they may crust or bleed. They can become disfiguring and sometimes deadly if allowed to grow. It is mainly caused by cumulative ultraviolet (UV) exposure over the course of a lifetime due to daily year-round exposure to the sun’s UV light, intense exposure in the summer months and the UV produced by tanning beds, which all can lead to SCC.
SCCs is most common in areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the rim of the ear, lower lip, face, balding scalp, neck, hands, arms and legs. Often the skin in these areas reveals telltale signs of sun damage, including wrinkles, pigment changes, freckles, “age spots,” loss of elasticity, and broken blood vessels.
Most squamous cell skin cancers are found and treated at an early stage, when they can be removed or destroyed with local treatment methods. In rare cases, squamous cell cancers can spread to lymph nodes or distant parts of the body. If this happens, treatments such as radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy may be needed.
Different types of surgery can be used to treat squamous cell skin cancers.
Excision: Cutting out the tumor, along with a small margin of normal skin, is often used to treat squamous cell cancers.
Curettage and electrodesiccation: This approach is sometimes useful in treating small (less than 1 cm across), thin squamous cell cancers, but it’s not recommended for larger tumors.
Mohs surgery: Mohs surgery has the highest cure rate. It’s especially useful for squamous cell cancers larger than 2 cm (about 4/5 inch) across or with poorly defined edges, for cancers that have come back after other treatments, for cancers that are spreading along nerves under the skin, and for cancers on certain areas of the face or genital area. This approach is typically more complex and time-consuming than other types of surgery.
Radiation therapy is often a good option for patients with large cancers, especially in areas where surgery would be hard to do (such as the eyelids, ears, or nose), or for patients who can’t have surgery. It’s not used as much as the first treatment in younger patients because of the possible risk of long-term problems.
Radiation is sometimes used after surgery (simple excision or lymph node dissection) if all of the cancer was not removed (if the surgical margins were positive), if nerves are involved, or if there is a chance that some cancer may still be left.
Radiation can also be used to treat cancers that have come back after surgery and have become too large or deep to be removed surgically.
Cryotherapy (cryosurgery) is used for some early squamous cell cancers, especially in people who can’t have surgery, but is not recommended for larger invasive tumors or those on certain parts of the nose, ears, eyelids, scalp, or legs.
Treating advanced squamous cell cancers
Lymph node dissection: Removing regional (nearby) lymph nodes might be recommended for some squamous cell cancers that are very large or have grown deeply into the skin, as well as if the lymph nodes feel enlarged and/or hard. The removed lymph nodes are looked at under a microscope to see if they contain cancer cells. Sometimes, radiation therapy might be recommended after surgery.
Systemic chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is an option for patients with squamous cell cancer that has spread to lymph nodes or distant organs. Sometimes it’s combined with surgery or radiation therapy.
iKarmik says, while SCC is the second most common form of skin cancer it can be prevented by reducing our exposure to UV rays and timely treatment. We wish Tom Alter a speedy recovery and hope to see him on stage again soon.