Verrucous carcinoma is a cancer that most commonly occurs in the mouth, although this type of cancer can also occur in other areas of the body including the oesophagus, the genitals and the skin. This type of cancer rarely spreads and remains isolated, for this reason surgery is the most popular form of treatment. Verrucous carcinoma is more likely in people that smoke or chew tobacco also known as snuff, for this reason this type of cancer is also known as snuff dippers cancer.
The cause for verrucous carcinoma is not known but there are a number of factors that can increase the risk of this type of cancer developing, they include:
- Smoking – Smoking can attributed to the cause of verrucous carcinoma and various other types of cancer, it can also increase the risk of heart disease.
- HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) – The Human papilloma Virus is a common infection and usually does not require treatment, its believed around 80% of the population will have HPV virus at some point in their life. The virus can increase the risk of this and other cancer types.
- Alcohol – Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of a range of cancers and also increase the chance of liver damage.
- Lowered immune system – If your immune system is low then you may be at an increased risk, HIV patients or patients of other autoimmune diseases such as arthritis may also have an increased risk of developing this cancer
- Age – As with many other types of cancer your risk increases with your age, verrucous carcinoma is more common in white males over the age of 50
The symptoms associated with verrucous carcinoma will vary dramatically as the tumour can appear in a wide number of different areas. The most common symptoms are wart like growths that are itchy and may bleed. The appearance of the growth can be similar to that of a cauliflower. In order to confirm diagnosis of verrucous carcinoma a biopsy is normally required, this is to distinguish the cancer from other types of cancers that may present with similar symptoms. Verrucous carcinoma growths primarily involve the skin but can also grow deeper and begin to invade neighbouring muscle or even bone if they are left to grow deep enough.
Verrucous carcinoma rarely spreads to other areas and is normally in a single isolated area, because of this surgery is used to remove the growth. This type of removal will in most cases completely get rid of the cancerous cells associated with the growth. In cases where the growth has grown deeper into the skin radiotherapy and or chemotherapy may be required to treat areas that surgery could not remove.
All cancers have the potential to be fatal but the general prognosis for verrucous carcinoma that is localised and removed by surgery when in its earliest stages are extremely good.