Squamous cell cancer is the second most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer. While not as common as basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell skin cancers can act more aggressively and can spread into nearby tissue and lymph nodes, and can even metastasize to distal organs in advanced cases.
New York-Presbyterian's skin cancer specialists have strong expertise in diagnosing and treating squamous cell carcinoma. They will discuss your treatment options and develop a plan of care that meets your needs and considers your preferences.
Skin Screening to Find Cancers Early
New York-Presbyterian dermatologists are experts in skin screening for all types of skin malignancies including skin cancer screening and evaluating moles. Suspicious lesions are biopsied for further histologic evaluation. Early diagnosis is important for prognosis and treating early to minimize extent of surgery and potential complications.
A Team of Specialists
You have access to a team of dermatologists, Mohs surgeons, dermatopathologists (doctors with advanced training in the skin histology), medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists and others with experience caring for people with squamous cell carcinoma. Your team will customize a plan of care tailored to your medical needs and personal preferences.
Surgery for Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Our Mohs surgeons perform the most cutting edge treatment for squamous cell carcinoma where indicated. Mohs surgery allows for tissue conservation by removing only the cancerous cells while having the highest cure rate of any other treatment modality for skin cancer removal. The tissue sparing techniques allows for the best possible cosmetic outcome.
- Curettage. Small superficial squamous cell cancers can be scraped off using a curette (which has a sharp, ring-shaped tip), using local anesthesia. Your doctor then "desiccates" the tumor site with an electrocautery needle. This technique is best reserved for parts of the body other than the head and neck.
- Mohs micrographic surgery. Tumors in delicate areas like the face might require Mohs surgery, a technique performed by our highly trained doctors. During Mohs surgery, the tumor is removed layer by layer and microscopically examined each time during the procedure to ensure elimination of cancer while preserving as much healthy skin as possible.
For some people with small, superficial squamous cell cancers or those who cannot have surgery, we provide a variety of nonsurgical treatments.
- Topical creams. Some squamous cell carcinomas may be treated with creams that you put on the lesion, such as imiquimod (which stimulates your immune system to fight cancer) and 5-fluorouracil (a type of chemotherapy in a form to be used on the skin). You would use the cream daily for several weeks.
- Cryosurgery. Your doctor may use cryosurgery—freezing the cancer cells with liquid nitrogen—to treat squamous cell carcinoma that have not invaded deeply into the skin.
- Photodynamic therapy. This approach is used for treating some superficial squamous cell carcinomas and actinic keratosis (precancers). We apply a cream containing a chemical that is activated by an intense blue ultraviolet light. When we direct the light at cancer, the chemical selectively destroys squamous cell cancer cells while causing minimal damage to nearby healthy skin tissue.
- Radiation therapy. We use radiation to treat some large or oddly situated squamous cell carcinomas. We also use it after surgery in some people to kill any remaining cancer cells. NewYork-Presbyterian's radiation treatment centers are state-of-the-art facilities featuring the latest highly focused radiation technologies.
Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma Clinical Trials
NewYork-Presbyterian has a robust portfolio of cancer clinical trials, including many studies evaluating promising new therapies and treatment combinations for advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. Your doctor will let you know if you are eligible to participate in a clinical trial of an innovative therapy.