Surgery is the first choice of treatment and several different methods are available. To select the right one, your surgeon will take into account the size of the squamous cell carcinoma, where it is, what type it is, and how long you have had it. The most common surgical technique is simply to cut the squamous cell carcinoma away along with some clear skin around it. This is done under a local anaesthetic.
Other types of surgery, which are used less often, include:
Curettage and cautery – first the squamous cell carcinoma is scraped away (curettage)
then the skin surface is sealed (cautery). This is a reasonable treatment for small squamous cell carcinomas
Cryotherapy – freezing the squamous cell carcinoma off, as you would a wart, usually with liquid nitrogen.
Advanced surgery – using the Mohs’ technique, which is undertaken only in specialist centres, and then only for difficult or recurring squamous cell carcinomas.
The removal of lymph nodes – this is unusual but may be needed if there are concerns that the squamous cell carcinoma has spread.
Radiotherapy (treatment with X-rays) may be used if the squamous cell carcinoma is large or in an awkward place. You may be offered this on its own or alongside surgery. Radiotherapy may also be used to relieve symptoms when a squamous cell carcinoma has spread to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy (treatment with drugs) is only used when a squamous cell carcinoma has spread to other parts of the body.
What can I do?
Treatment will be much easier if your squamous cell carcinoma is detected early. It follows that you should see your doctor if you have any marks on your skin which are:
- Changing in appearance in any way.
- Never healing completely.
You can also take some simple precautions to help prevent a squamous cell carcinoma appearing:
Top sun safety tips
- Protect the skin with clothing, including a hat, T shirt and UV protective sunglasses
- Seek shade between 11am and 3pm when it’s sunny
- Use a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 (SPF 50 for children or people with pale skin) which also has high UVA protection
- Keep babies and young children out of direct sunlight
- Sunscreens should not be used as an alternative to clothing and shade, rather they offer additional protection. No sunscreen will provide 100% protection.