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Judi's avatar

What happens if an 80 year old ignores squamous cell on her face?

Asked by Judi (39850points) April 12th, 2015 from iPhone

My MIL has had several squamous cell moles removed from her face. The last one was really deep, left scars that forced her to change her hair style and took much longer to heal than she anticipated.
She has a new one on the corner of her eye and she has decided not to do anything about it. She says that she’s 80 years old and either this or something else will probably kill her in the next 5 years anyway.
She is pretty much wheel chair bound, although she can transfer to the toilet by herself. She has rheumatoid arthritis as well.
The little bit of research I’ve done leads me to believe that she will likely be more disfigured by ignoring it than by having it removed.
Has anyone had experience with this? Any idea what the prognosis is if she ignores it?

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9 Answers

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

My husband has had many skin cancers removed including SCCs on his face and one was near his eye. Your MIL is correct that if she leaves it, it may kill her and yes, if she leaves it, yes, it could cause disfigurement.

I found this resource. While I can understand she’s unhappy about undergoing more treatment, the sooner she gets it dealt with, the less intrusive any treatment will be.

This is what that resource said about leaving them untreated.

“Squamous cell carcinomas usually remain confined to the epidermis (the top skin layer) for some time. However, the larger these tumors grow, the more extensive the treatment needed. They eventually penetrate the underlying tissues, which can lead to major disfigurement, sometimes even the loss of a nose, eye or ear. A small percentage spread (metastasize) to distant tissues and organs. When this happens, squamous cell carcinomas frequently can be life-threatening.

Metastases most often arise on sites of chronic inflammatory skin conditions and on the ear, nose, lip, and mucosal regions, including the mouth, nostrils, genitals, anus, and the lining of the internal organs.”

Small consolation I know, but I’m currently in nagging mode to get my husband to make his routine appointment with his skin specialist. He knows he has to go regularly but he puts it off and it worries me that he’ll leave it longer than he should and there will be some nasty he’s not aware of.

marinelife's avatar

This might be her decision at her age. She could make an informed decision by seeing a dermatologist.

My mom made the decision at 89 not to have risky heart valve surgery and went with just palliative care. She only lived another month.

Here is what Memorial Sloan Kettering says: “Most squamous cell carcinomas can be cured if detected and treated early. But because this type of skin cancer can grow quickly, delaying treatment could make it more difficult to cure and increase the risk of cosmetic damage and functional difficulties. In addition, larger, deeper squamous cell carcinomas that appear on the lips and ears, or in people who are immunocompromised, are more likely to spread (metastasize).

Squamous cell carcinomas are classified based on the risk of recurrence and the risk of spreading, which depends primarily on anatomical location. Cancers on the central part of the face — including the eyelids, nose, lips, and ears are considered high-risk and have the potential to metastasize. Recurrent cancers and those greater than two centimeters in diameter on the trunk or extremities are categorized similarly. Squamous cell carcinomas that are small, superficial, have a well-defined edge, and have not been treated before are at a low risk of recurring. These are defined as low-risk cancers.”

Judi's avatar

@marinelife, that’s pretty much the info I found too. I just don’t know if she realizes that the cancer itself will cause as much or more deformity as the scars from surgery.

marinelife's avatar

@Judi When I had two skin cancers removed my dermatologist recommended Mohs microsurgery. It is a very effective technique that results in them taking the bare minimum of tissue to get the whole cancer.

Perhaps there is a Mohs center near your MIL.

Judi's avatar

That’s what she had done last time and the pain and scars were really hard on her. She is so fragile right now having more than two people is a room with her is overwhelming.

cheebdragon's avatar

My great aunt did something like that because she was a member of some bullshit church that thought God would heal it, At the same time she also ignored gallbladder pain until she ended up being hospitalized after family members threatened to have her declared insane. Turned out her gall bladder had become gangrenous and the cancer on her face had eaten half of cheek. She lived for awhile and didn’t return to her previous church, but last year her neighbor was concerned about her dogs barking for 2 days straight, called the cops and they found her body in the house. She died in her sleep 3 days prior.

Judi's avatar

She’s in probably the best assisted living facility in the country. They check on her several times a day.

Aster's avatar

My bffs husband, 83, was diagnosed with melanoma three years ago. His wife would put an ointment and gauze on it daily. Since then, he has bought a motorcycle, a van, continues his dance lessons, pulls weeds and likes to disappear for a couple days just to make her squirm. He doesn’t say where he’s going and she doesn’t ask.
Years ago when they began talking about melanoma they’d say “its fatal.” I believed it then but not now. I want to say, however, that thirty years ago a really sweet man I knew was at the mall when I was. I recall him saying, “it’s just a silly little bump. I don’t know why they’re making a federal case out of it.”
He died two years later in his forties.

Judi's avatar

Thanks @Aster . I have a friend who’s daughter died from squamous cell. It was so awful because she was young and beautiful and this is usually something that kills old men. Damned tanning beds.
Dying is not really what my MIL afraid of. She realizes she will probably die in the next 10 years and really doesn’t want to live an invalid. She’s more afraid of the pain and disfigurement than dying.

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