The deadly cancer you've never heard of

Published: Aug. 8, 2019 at 3:11 PM EDT
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Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common cancer in the U.S. with 1 million cases expected to be diagnosed this year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. But a new survey shows most people don't know about it.

Ed Matthews spent many of his younger years working as a caddy on the golf course.

"Five to six days a week I would do that, so I was definitely in the sun then," Matthews said.

Little did he know all of that sun exposure would lead to problems later.

Dr. Ariel Ostad with NYU Langone Health has treated Matthews for various skin cancers. His biggest scare came when he noticed a small bump on his neck.

"Then it became from a pea to the size of a bean and then it blew up to a half of a golf ball," Matthews said.

He was diagnosed with advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma or CSCC.

"As it grows, it can become scaly, red, inflamed. Ultimately, it can become painful as it gets bigger," Ostad said.

The Skin Cancer Foundation is raising awareness about this type of skin cancer. A new survey shows 42% of Americans have never heard of CSCC, even though the skin cancer causes more deaths than melanoma.

Matthews is among the 40,000 people treated for advanced CSCC every year.

"He underwent not only surgery to remove that mass on his neck, but all the lymph nodes had to be removed," Ostad said.

Matthews also needed radiation and chemotherapy.

Ostad says early detection is critical, so he encourages annual skin exams. He also says prevention from an early age, including sunscreen and protective clothing, is key.

Now, Matthews checks his body for any skin changes.

"When I'm shaving, I'm looking around a little bit or feeling it," he said.

Matthews has now been in remission for three years.

Doctors say the majority of people diagnosed with CSCC are fair-skinned, have blond hair, blue eyes and are over 65.