Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment

Surgery is a possible treatment for squamous cell carcinoma
Surgery is one of the treatment
options for squamous cell
carcinoma.

There are four types of standard squamous cell carcinoma treatments.

Surgery for Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment

One or more of the following surgical procedures may be used in squamous cell carcinoma treatment:

Mohs Micrographic Surgery

Mohs Micrographic Surgery (MMS) is an advanced surgical technique designed specifically for the removal of cancers of the skin. 

Excisional Surgery

For squamous cell carcinoma treatment, the tumor is removed from the skin and underlying tissue along with standard margin of normal skin.  The specimen is sent to the pathology lab to confirm that the margins are clear of cancerous cell.

Electrodesiccation and curettage

This treatment is used for superficial skin cancers.  The tumor is scraped off the skin with a curette (a sharp, spoon-shaped tool). A needle-shaped electrode is then used to treat the area with an electric current that stops the bleeding and destroys cancer cells that remain around the edge of the wound.

Photodynamic Therapy for Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a squamous cell carcinoma treatment that uses a drug and a certain type of laser light to kill cancer cells. A drug that is not active until it is exposed to light is applied topically to the area being treated.  The drug collects more in cancer cells than in normal cells.  After a variable time during which the medication is allowed to incubate in the skin cells, the area of concern is exposed to a special light which activates the medication and creates inflammation to destroy precancerous and cancerous cells.  Photodynamic therapy causes little damage to healthy tissue.

Radiation Therapy for Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment

Radiation therapy is a squamous cell carcinoma treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.  In the majority of cases of non-melanoma skin cancer, radiation is used after surgery to destroy any cancerous cells that potentially remain in the area or surrounding skin and lymph nodes.

Chemotherapy for Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment

Chemotherapy is a squamous cell carcinoma treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). Chemotherapy for non-melanoma skin cancer and actinic keratosis is usually topical (applied to the skin in a cream or lotion). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the condition being treated.

Retinoids (drugs related to vitamin A) are sometimes used to treat or prevent non-melanoma skin cancer. The retinoids may be taken by mouth or applied to the skin. The use of retinoids is being studied in clinical trials for prevention of squamous cell carcinomas in high risk individuals.

 

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