Treatment of Squamous Cell Cancer of the Skin

The treatment of squamous cell cancer (SCC) of the skin is similar to the treatment of basal cell cancer.

Once a skin cancer has been diagnosed, it is important to avoid the sun and use a sunscreen.

Protective clothing and a hat are also important features of preventive care.

SCC can be treated in various ways. The ultimate treatment depends on where the cancer is, how big it is, the individual's health and available facilities. The following treatments are used to treat SCC:

Cryotherapy: When the SCC is located in an area where it is difficult to access surgically, it can be destroyed by freezing it. Liquid nitrogen applied on a Q tip can be applied to the skin lesion and over time, the tumor will fall off. Freezing is good for the very small lesions on the ears, nose or eyelids. The treatment is painless but does take several weeks of repeated treatments to get the desired results. Multiple lesions can be treated at the same time.

Surgery: Sometimes surgery is ideal to treat SCC. Surgery involves excision the entire skin lesion with a margin of normal tissue. The area is numbed with a local anesthetic and the entire lesion cut out. If the lesion is small, the skin defect can be closed with sutures. If the defect is large, a skin graft or some type of plastic procedure may be required to close the defect.

Laser: Today lasers are also used to treat SCC of the skin; the lasers are only good for the superficial flat skin lesions. The heat from the laser vaporizes the tumor. Several treatment sessions may be required. Laser is generally not used for deep lesions because it can cause pain. However, there are lasers available which can cut out the entire lesion, just like a knife. This is best done under anesthesia in an operating room. Lasers are useful when the SCC is located on the lower lips.

Mohs' surgery. This procedure is ideal for large SCC located on the back, trunk, chest and face. This highly technical method involves shaving each layer of the skin and then examining them under the microscope. Each layer is examined until there is no more cancer left. This way unnecessary normal tissue is not cut but the entire cancer is removed. Moh's surgery is performed by both physicians and technicians who have been trained with this technique. It is a safe technique but is time consuming.

Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is frequently used to treat SCC which is located on the ears, eyelids and lips. These areas can be difficult to access with surgery and can leave a cosmetic defect, thus radiation is preferred. Radiation is best for the superficial skin cancers. However, radiation therapy has a very high recurrence rate and is always the first choice therapy.

Electrosurgery: A variation of the laser is the use of electrically induced heat energy to destroy the cancer. Small amounts of heat are applied to the tumor with an electrical probe. This is definitely painful but also effective. The treatment is best for the most superficial skin lesions.

Chemotherapy: There are numerous chemotherapeutic drugs that can be used to treat SCC. Chemotherapeutic drugs are also available as topical cream and ointments. These agents are applied to the Skin lesions everyday for several weeks. The majority of these medications are very irritating to the skin and thus all such treatments must be supervised.

Phototherapy is another alternative for SCC of the skin. Phototherapy basically involves injecting the individual with a drug/dye which accumulates in the tumor. Following this light therapy is used which has an affinity for the dye. The treatment is good for the deep lesions. It however, cannot prevent more lesions from occurring in the future.

The best treatment of SCC of the skin will be determined by your physician.

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