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Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are diagnosed by a biopsy conducted in a dermatologist’s office. The tissue is sent to a pathologist to determine whether or not cancer cells are present. The Skin Cancer Foundation says that SCCs are usually limited to the epidermis for an extended period of time. If the lesion gets larger, more extensive treatment is needed as it eventually penetrates underlying tissues, which can lead to disfigurement. A small percentage of squamous cell carcinomas spread to other parts of the body. If the entire lesion (damaged tissue) is removed as part of the biopsy, the primary treatment is over. If further squamous cell carcinoma treatment is necessary, your options include surgery, laser surgery, cryosurgery, radiation therapy, electrodessication and curettage, and Mohs micrographic surgery.
In excisional surgery, the lesion is surgically removed with a scalpel, or other cutting instrument. Often performed in a doctor’s office under local anesthesia, the procedure has a high cure rate, produces minimal scarring, and can be completed in one session.
Radiation uses high-energy X-rays and other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells when the cancer has spread to other organs and tissue. It may also be used for tumors that cannot be treated with surgery. In one form, a machine sends radiation to the affected area. In another technique, a needle or catheter places a radioactive substance into or near the cancer. Cure rates with radiation range from 85-95 percent, depending on the type and stage of skin cancer.
Cryotherapy destroys cancer cells by freezing them. The dermatologist sprays the area with liquid nitrogen to freeze it, then the skin is thawed and the process repeated. The tissue dies and falls off over the next 24 hours.
Radiation uses high-energy X-rays and other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells when the cancer has spread to other organs and tissue. It may also be used for tumors that cannot be treated with surgery. In one form, a machine sends radiation to the affected area. In another technique, a needle or catheter places a radioactive substance into or near the cancer.
Electrodessication and Curettage
This treatment involves scraping away the cancerous area with a tool called a curette, followed by electrodessication and curettage (also known as ED+C). Here, an electrical current is applied to the area through a needle to stop the flow of blood and eliminate any cancer cells that might have been left behind, especially those around the edges of the wound.
Mohs Micrographic Surgery
Mohs micrographic surgery is a squamous cell carcinoma treatment in which the cancer and subsequent layers of tissue below and around the cancer are removed and immediately examined under a high-powered microscope. The process continues until the skin sample is cancer-free
Mohs surgery is often used for skin cancers that recur, for cancers embedded in scar tissue, and for cancers on the face and other areas where excision or other types of surgeries might not be cosmetically acceptable. The procedure is also preferred when the cancer is extensive and grows at a quick pace, or when it is difficult to determine the extent of the lesion. Mohs surgery has a high cure rate for squamous cell carcinoma.
Follow-up Appointments for Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment
Anyone who has had squamous cell carcinoma, or any other type of skin cancer, should have frequent follow-up appointments, and every adult should have an annual skin examination by a physician or dermatologist. A person who has had one skin tumor has a 40 percent risk of developing a new lesion within two years, and all tumors are not evident to the patient.