Dr. Paul Drago: The Basics of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

With more than 15 years of experience as an otolaryngologist, Dr. Paul Drago serves as a physician for the South Carolina Department of Corrections. In this capacity, he treats an underserved population for conditions of the ear, nose, and throat, as well as promoting general wellness. During his internship and residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Dr. Paul Drago undertook significant research on squamous cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma results from the unrestrained growth of abnormal cells in the squamous layer of the skin. This cancer of the upper layers of the epidermis looks like warts or scaly patches. Caused by accumulated exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, squamous cell carcinoma develops on the skin, the hollow organs, or the mucous membranes; typically, it appears on parts of the body that are most often exposed to sun.

Doctors in the United States diagnose approximately 700,000 cases of squamous cell carcinoma each year. Although it can be disfiguring or even deadly if left unchecked, squamous cell carcinoma usually responds well to treatment. Most often, physicians employ Mohs micrographic surgery to eradicate the disease. This method involves the use a curette or scalpel to remove the visible tumor and minute layers of skin until no cancerous cells are evident.

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