By: Dr. Thomas Incledon
I regret all those trips to the tanning bed. What are my options for squamous cell carcinoma treatment?
Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It develops in the middle land outer layers of the skin and is usually a result of over-exposure to UV radiation found in tanning beds, certain lights, and sunlight. Because skin covers the whole body, squamous cell carcinoma can occur anywhere. While it is rarely life threatening, it can cause complications if left untreated.
Areas regularly exposed to sunlight are the most usual places to look for squamous cell carcinoma, but it can occur other places as well. Common signs of this type of skin cancer are:
- A firm, red nodule
- A flat sore with a scaly crust
- A new sore or raised area that develops on an old scar or ulcer
- A rough, scaly patch on your lip that may evolve to an open sore
- A red sore or rough patch inside your mouth
- A red, raised patch or wart-like sore on or in the anus or on your genitals
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor and have an examination. If left untreated, squamous cell carcinoma can destroy nearby healthy tissue, spread to the lymph nodes or other organs, and in rare cases may be fatal. Aggressive cancer more commonly occurs in cases that:
- Involve a very large or deep cancer
- Includes the mucous membranes, such as the lips
- Occurs in a person with a weakened or compromised immune system
Squamous cell carcinoma treatments vary based on the size, location, and aggressiveness of a patient’s particular skin cancer. We also take into account patient preferences. Most squamous cell carcinomas can be removed with relatively minor surgery or sometimes with topical medicine that goes on the outside of the skin. Common squamous cell carcinoma treatments include:
Surgical Treatment Options
- Simple excision. This involves cutting out the cancerous tissue and some surrounding healthy skin to help ensure all the cancer cells are removed.
- Mohs surgery. This procedure allows doctors to remove squamous cell carcinoma one layer at a time. It is performed under a microscope, which helps to effectively remove all cancer cells while leaving as much healthy skin as possible.
- Electrodesiccation, curettage, and cryotherapy. Sometimes this procedure is called an ED and C with the cryotherapy portion not always being a necessity. This treatment option, often used on small cancers, removes the surface of the skin cancer with a scraping instrument called a curet and then searing the base of the cancer with an electric needle. Following the tumor removal and curettage, the base and edges of the site may be treated with liquid nitrogen, also known as cryotherapy.
Non-Invasive Treatment Options
- Laser therapy. Using an intense beam of light to remove skin cancer is effective on superficial squamous cell carcinomas. The benefits are small risks of bleeding, swelling, and scarring, as well as limited damage to healthy skin near the cancer.
- Photodynamic therapy. This procedure is also best when dealing with superficial skin cancers. A liquid drug that makes the cancer cells sensitive to light is applied to the skin, and then a different light is used to destroy those cancer cells.
- Medicated creams or lotions. Applying specific medicated creams or lotions to skin cancer cells can be effective in treating certain types of squamous cell carcinomas.
- Radiation therapy. This is a more intense option than laser or medicated creams but may be necessary for patients with deeper tumors or ones with an increased risk of recurrence. Radiation uses beams of energy to kill cancer cells.
If you are interested in learning more about squamous cell carcinoma treatments at Causenta, schedule your complimentary 30-minute consultation today.