BCC or SCC? The Value of Pain

Pain is a potential diagnostic tool for non-melanoma skin cancers. In a study from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) patients reported fairly comparable levels of itching at the cancer site. However, a far higher percentage of SCC patients (39 percent) than BCC patients (17 percent) reported pain at the tumor site. Thus, pain may be an important factor distinguishing the two cancers. Left untreated, SCC, in particular, can be fatal: About two percent of SCC patients—between 3,900 and 8,800 people—died from the disease in the US in 2012. It is therefore vital for dermatologists to differentiate SCC from BCC early in the lesion’s development to determine the best treatment.

Percentage of patients reporting itching or pain as a symptom