Squamous cell carcinoma treatment almost always involves surgery to remove a tumor, followed by one or more additional treatments to destroy residual cancer cells. Each patient’s treatment plan is influenced by a number of factors:
- The size and location of the tumor. Small squamous cell cancers may only need localized treatment while larger or faster-growing cancers may require additional surgical procedures to remove the cancer.
- Whether or not the cancer has spread into nearby tissues. The treatment plan for a patient whose squamous cell carcinoma has spread may include chemotherapy or radiation therapy, as well as surgery.
- The patient’s age and overall health. Older patients or those with weakened immune systems may not be good candidates for more invasive surgical procedures.
A number of different treatments are available for squamous cell carcinoma, making it possible to individualize each patient’s treatment plan to meet his or her specific needs.
Treating squamous cell carcinoma
In some situations, an entire carcinoma can be surgically removed during a diagnostic biopsy (a test used to determine whether a suspicious growth is malignant or benign). When this is the case, the growth is typically shaved off with a scalpel or sharp blade or punched out with a round, hollow tool.
In other situations, surgery is required after an initial biopsy. This is more common with larger, more extensive cancers that have grown deep into the skin or invaded nearby tissues. When this is the case, one of the following squamous cell carcinoma treatment options might be recommended:
- A shave excision. This surgery removes cancerous cells by cutting them away with a scalpel.
- A simple excision. This surgery removes cancerous cells by shaving them off the surface of the skin with a blade.
- Mohs micrographic surgery. This surgery removes a single layer of skin at a time and tests each layer for the presence of cancer until a layer is found to be cancer-free.
- Electrodessication and curettage. This surgery uses a spoon-shaped tool known as a curette to carve the carcinoma out of the skin. An electrode is then used to stop the bleeding and destroy any residual cancer cells.
- Dermabrasion. Although not technically a form of surgery, this procedure involves the removal of the top layer of skin using abrasive particles to rub away the cancerous skin cells.
Nonsurgical treatment options include radiation therapy, in which cancerous cells are exposed to powerful radioactive beams; topical chemotherapy, in which medications are applied directly to the surface of the skin and photodynamic therapy, in which chemicals and special lights are used to destroy cancerous cells.
Moffitt Cancer Center’s approach to squamous cell carcinoma treatment
Both surgical and nonsurgical treatments are available at Moffitt Cancer Center, and no referrals are required. We take a multispecialty approach to treatment, pairing each patient with a skilled team of surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, supportive care providers and other medical professionals. This unique approach allows us to achieve encouragingly high survival rates, as well as ensure that each patient sustains an exceptional quality of life throughout treatment.