Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Most squamous cell carcinomas can be completely removed with relatively minor surgery or occasionally with a topical medication. Which squamous cell carcinoma treatments are best for you depends on the size, location and aggressiveness of the tumor, as well as your own preferences.
Treatments may include:
- Electrodesiccation and curettage (ED and C). ED and C treatment involves removing the surface of the skin cancer with a scraping instrument (curette) and then searing the base of the cancer with an electric needle. This treatment is often used for very small squamous cell cancers.
- Laser therapy. An intense beam of light vaporizes growths, usually with little damage to surrounding tissue and with a reduced risk of bleeding, swelling and scarring. Laser treatment may be an option for very superficial skin lesions.
- Freezing. This treatment involves freezing cancer cells with liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery). It may be an option for treating superficial skin lesions.
- Photodynamic therapy. Photodynamic therapy combines photosensitizing drugs and light to treat superficial skin cancers. During photodynamic therapy, a liquid drug that makes the cancer cells sensitive to light is applied to the skin. Later, a light that destroys the skin cancer cells is shined on the area.
- Medicated creams or lotions. For very superficial cancers, you may apply creams or lotions containing anti-cancer medications directly to your skin.
- Simple excision. In this procedure, your doctor cuts out the cancerous tissue and a surrounding margin of healthy skin. Your doctor may recommend removing additional normal skin around the tumor in some cases (wide excision). To minimize scarring, especially on your face, consult a doctor skilled in skin reconstruction.
- Mohs surgery. During Mohs surgery, your doctor removes the cancer layer by layer, examining each layer under the microscope until no abnormal cells remain. This allows the surgeon to be certain the entire growth is removed and avoid taking an excessive amount of surrounding healthy skin.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. This may be an option for treating deeper tumors, those that have a risk of returning after surgery and tumors in people who can't undergo surgery.
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- Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=740. Accessed Feb. 12, 2013.
- Skin cancer treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/skin/Patient. Accessed Feb. 12, 2013.
- Skin cancer prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm. Accessed Feb. 19, 2013.
- Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 21, 2013.