Squamous cell carcinoma treatment depends on several factors: clinical and histological characteristic of the tumor, your age and general health, other medications you are taking, etc. unlike many other cancers, squamous cell carcinoma is often diagnosed at an early stage. In fact, healing occurs in more than 90% of squamous cell carcinomas, when treated effectively.
The treatment of choice for squamous cell carcinoma is surgery. In case the lesion is extensive, and the surgery leaves scar, you will receive skin grafts. If you too fragile for surgery or the tumor is too bid to surgically removed, radiation therapy combined with local chemotherapy may be performed.
In general, treatment of squamous cell carcinoma includes surgery, electrocautery, cryosurgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy, and more recently photherapy.
Also called cryosurgery, cryoablation or targeted cryoablation therapy, cryotherapy is the use or application of extreme cold to destroy diseased tissue, including cancerous cells. During the procedure, your physician uses a cryoprobe, a surgical instrument used to conduct intense cold to small areas of body tissues in order to destroy them. To position the cryoprobe precisely on the treated area, the therapist can use imaging techniques. He visualizes the movement of the device in real time on a monitor like a television screen.
Surgery is the essential treatment for squamous cell carcinoma; In fact, most squamous cell carcinomas detected and removed early are successfully treated with surgery alone. It is estimated that 80% of skin cancers – when detected early – are effectively treated with surgery. Depending on the extension of the tumor, your surgeon can perform an excisional surgery, laser therapy, Mohs surgery or curettage.
- Excisional surgery – this is, by far,the most common skin cancer surgical treatment. It consists of using a scalpel to remove cancerous tissue and a surrounding margin of healthy skin.
- Laser therapy – this method consists of using high-intensity light to kill cancerous tissue in order to shrink or destroy tumors.
- Mohs surgery – this surgical procedure is used to treat large basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. During the procedure, your surgeon removes the skin growth layer by layer, and immediately examines each layer under microscopeto search for cancer cells.
- Curettage and electrodesiccation – this is a simple procedurepracticed, most of the times,to treat small basal cell and squamous cell tumors. It consists of removing the tumor from the skin with a curette, a surgical instrument designed for scraping biological tissue or debris. After the tumor is removed, your surgeon will use an electric needle to cauterize the remaining cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is an important tool in the treatment of advanced or metastatic skin cancer. It consists of using strong chemical agents to destroy cancer cells in the entire organism. Usually, chemotherapy drugs act by damaging cancer cells and preventing them from multiplying. The protocol varies depending on the stage of the cancer and your general health. In early stage cancers, creams or lotions containing anti-cancer agents can be used to kill the cancer cells. These chemotherapeutic agents can be administered alone or in combination. En general, the most effective therapeutic option will be considered.
Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy)
Radiotherapy is a local therapy that treats a specific part of your body. The treatment consists of using ionizing radiation to destroy cancer cells in order to shrink or eliminate the tumor. Radiation is often practiced in advanced or metastatic skin cancer to relieve symptoms. Radiotherapy can be used in association with surgical therapy or alone when surgery is not an option.
Biological Therapy (Immunotherapy)
Biological therapy (immunotherapy) consists of using drugs to stimulate the immune system to help your body fight the cancer cells. Immunotherapy drugs act by activating your immune cells so they attack cancer cells and destroy them. Interferon and interleukin-2 are the two most used drugs in the treatment of skin cancer. Their common adverse effects include:
- muscle aches.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
This new form of therapy involves application of a photosensitizing substance (causing susceptibility of tissue to certain lights) on the skin for several hours before exposing it to a blue or red light. The substance is applied on the skin as a liquid or a cream containing aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA-HCl) or methyl aminolevulinate (MAL). Once on the skin, the drug is absorbed by the diseased tissue and sebaceous glands. Exposure to the light activates the substance in the tissue, and causes its destruction. You will need to avoid direct sunlight for at least six weeks after treatment.
Retinoids are often used in the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). When they are used at high doses (3 to 4 mg / kg), they significantly reduce the size of large SCC. These drugs can be used alone or in combination with interferon. The combination of retinoids and interferon in the treatment of inoperable or advanced squamous cell carcinoma can provide satisfactory results. However, in some patients, retinoids often cause side effects:
- decreased appetite
- skin lesions
- hair loss
- liver problems
- eye problems
- general malaise,
- intracranial hypertension (BIH).