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Squamous cell skin cancer

  • Alternative Names

    Cancer - skin - squamous cell; Skin cancer - squamous cell; Nonmelanoma skin cancer - squamous cell; NMSC - squamous cell


    See also: Actinic keratosis for treatment information

    Skin cancer has a high cure rate if it is treated early. Treatment depends on how big the tumor is, its location, and how far it has spread (metastasis).

    • Excision refers to cutting out the tumor and using stitches to place the skin back together.
    • Curettage and electrodesiccation scrapes away the cancer and uses electricity to kill any remaining cancer cells. It is used to treat cancers that are not very large or deep.
    • Mohs surgery involves cutting out a layer of the skin cancer and immediately looking at it under a microscope to check if any cancer has been left behind. More layers are removed until the skin sample is free of cancer. Mohs surgery is more likely to be used for skin cancers on the nose, ears, and other areas of the face.
    • Cryosurgery freezes and kills the cancer cells.
    • Radiation may be used if the cancer has spread to organs or lymph nodes, or for squamous cell cancers that cannot be treated with surgery.
    • Skin creams and the medications imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil may be used to treat actinic keratosis and superficial (not very deep) squamous cell carcinoma.
    • Photodynamic therapy, a special type of light treatment, may be used to treat Bowen's disease (BD).

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    Most (95%) of squamous cell tumors can be cured if they are removed promptly. New tumors may develop, however. If you have had squamous cell cancer, have your skin regularly examined by your health care provider.

    The outlook depends on a number of factors, including the type of cancer and how quickly it was diagnosed. Squamous cell carcinoma only rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

    Some squamous cell skin cancers may be more difficult to treat or can spread. This risk may depend on:

    • The size or shape of the cancer
    • What the cancer appears like when biopsy results are examined under a microscope
    • Where the skin cancer is located
    • Your other health problems

    • Local spread of the tumor
    • Spread to other locations, including the internal organs

    Calling your health care provider

    Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you see the sore change in:

    • Appearance
    • Color
    • Size
    • Texture

    Also call if you have pain, inflammation, bleeding, or itching of an existing skin sore.