Verrucous Carcinoma

Overview

What is verrucous carcinoma?

Verrucous carcinoma is a type of squamous cell carcinoma (cancer). You can get this cancer in your mouth or, more rarely, on your genitals or feet.

Squamous cells are certain types of cells that are flat and thin. They’re found in many tissues of your body, including the surface of your skin and the lining of your throat and mouth.

Where on your body do you get verrucous carcinoma?

Verrucous carcinoma most often forms in cells that line your cheeks and lips inside of your mouth. It also forms on your gums, tongue and the bone that holds tooth sockets (mandibular alveolar crest).

Can you get verrucous carcinoma in other parts of the body besides the mouth?

Rarely, people get verrucous carcinoma on their genitals, including their:

It’s also possible to develop verrucous carcinoma on your feet.

What is the difference between squamous cell carcinoma and verrucous carcinoma?

Verrucous carcinoma is a type of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) that can develop in your gums and cheeks — the oral cavity — as well as your genitals and feet. When verrucous carcinoma forms in your mouth, healthcare providers manage the condition as an oral cancer. When verrucous carcinoma forms on your feet, they manage it as a skin cancer.

Who might get verrucous carcinoma?

Verrucous carcinoma is more common in men ages 40 to 60. It occurs more often in people with a history of:

  • Chewing betel nuts (areca palm seeds).
  • Drinking alcohol or alcohol use disorder.
  • Smoking.
  • Using chewing tobacco or snus (a smokeless tobacco product).

Sometimes, verrucous carcinoma develops from irritation of your skin over time or from skin wounds.

How common is verrucous carcinoma?

Verrucous carcinoma is rare. From 1973 to 2015, about 2,000 out of 100,000 people in the U.S. had verrucous carcinoma in their oral cavity.

Does verrucous carcinoma have other names?

Verrucous carcinoma is sometimes called Ackerman’s tumor.

What does verrucous carcinoma look like?

You might notice a mouth sore (lesion) or sores on your genitals or on the soles of your feet.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes verrucous carcinoma?

Verrucous carcinoma happens when squamous cells in some parts of your body grow in ways that aren’t typical. Squamous cells are in the tissues of your skin and in the lining of your:

What are the symptoms of verrucous carcinoma?

Verrucous carcinoma can grow very slowly. You might not notice symptoms for a while.

You might see reddish or white patches in your mouth or sores on your skin. A mass (tumor) that looks like a wart — known as a papillary tumor — may form.

Is verrucous carcinoma contagious?

Verrucous carcinoma isn’t contagious.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is verrucous carcinoma diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider does a physical examination to locate the lesion or tumor. They also ask you about your symptoms, medical history and lifestyle, including your smoking and tobacco habits.

What tests do healthcare providers use to diagnose verrucous carcinoma?

Healthcare providers primarily use biopsy to diagnose verrucous carcinoma. They take a tissue sample, and a pathologist examines it under a microscope. Pathology is the analysis of the tissues and cells involved in the disease. The pathology of verrucous carcinoma can confirm a diagnosis.

Depending on the location of lesions or tumors — and whether your healthcare provider thinks cancer may have spread — you might have a:

Management and Treatment

How is verrucous carcinoma treated?

Healthcare providers usually perform surgery to remove the tumor. If cancer has spread into surrounding tissues or if you have many lesions, your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Radiation.
  • Chemotherapy or other systemic therapies like targeted therapy or immunotherapy.
  • Cryotherapy.
  • Laser therapy.

Healthcare providers don’t typically use radiation therapy to treat verrucous carcinoma. But, depending on the location of your disease, you may have radiation following surgery. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about the right treatment options for you.

Is verrucous carcinoma curable?

Often, verrucous carcinoma doesn’t spread beyond the tumor site. Once healthcare providers remove the tumor, most people recover.

Are there complications of verrucous carcinoma?

Some people with verrucous carcinoma don’t know that lesions may be serious and don’t tell their healthcare providers. Delaying treatment gives verrucous carcinoma a chance to spread or worsen. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you notice sores or lumps in your mouth, on your genitals or on your feet.

Rarely, when verrucous carcinoma is on your foot and isn’t treated, cancer may spread into your bone.

Prevention

How can I reduce my risk of verrucous carcinoma?

You can reduce your risk of developing verrucous carcinoma by avoiding tobacco products and drinking less alcohol. Try to quit smoking or vaping, too.

Are there other conditions that put me at higher risk for developing verrucous carcinoma?

Verrucous carcinoma can sometimes form after traumatic injury to your skin or when your skin remains irritated over time. You can reduce your risk by doing a skin self-exam and treating any skin irritations.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have verrucous carcinoma?

The outlook (prognosis) for most people with verrucous carcinoma is good. After treatment, many people recover.

Are there long-term effects from verrucous carcinoma?

You may have scarring on your skin after surgery to remove tumors. Occasionally, healthcare providers must remove some bone if cancer has spread.

Can I get verrucous carcinoma more than once?

Yes, verrucous carcinoma can recur (come back). Your healthcare provider will talk to you about treatment options if the condition returns.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider if I have symptoms of verrucous carcinoma?

Tell your healthcare provider right away if you notice lesions or growths in your mouth, on your genitals or on your feet.

How can I best cope with verrucous carcinoma?

A cancer diagnosis may feel scary, but most people with verrucous carcinoma have a good prognosis. See your healthcare provider and follow your treatment plan. Avoid tobacco products and limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Verrucous carcinoma is a highly treatable cancer. You can reduce your risk of developing this cancer by not smoking or chewing tobacco and by drinking less alcohol. Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any lumps, growths or sores in your mouth (including on the inside of your cheeks or on your tongue), on your genitals or on your feet. With early diagnosis, you can get treated earlier and recover faster.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/05/2022.

References

  • Dalirsani Z, Falaki F, Mohtasham N, Vazifeh Mostaan L. Oral verrucous carcinoma and ameloblastoma: a rare coincidence. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4409961/) Iran J Otorhinolaryngol. 2015;27(79):159-163. Accessed 1/5/2022.
  • Nagarajan D, Chandrasekhar M, Jebakumar J, Menon KA. Verrucous carcinoma of foot at an unusual site: Lessons to be learnt. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5506811/) South Asian J Cancer. 2017;6(2):63. Accessed 1/5/2022.
  • Santosh HN, Nagaraj T, Saxena S, Biswas A, Pai SA. Verrucous carcinoma: A clinicopathological study. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6714279/) J Oral Maxillofac Pathol. 2019;23(2):303. Accessed 1/5/2022.
  • Wang N, Huang M, Lv H. Head and neck verrucous carcinoma: A population-based analysis of incidence, treatment, and prognosis. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6959962/) Medicine (Baltimore). 2020;99(2): e18660. Accessed 1/5/2022.

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