Most squamous cell carcinomas can be cured when found and treated early.
Treatment options include:
- Simple excision (cutting out the growth and a margin of healthy skin around it).
- Freezing (cryosurgery, using liquid nitrogen to kill cancer cells).
- Photodynamic therapy.
- Imiquimod and interferon.
These treatments use medications to trigger your body’s natural defenses against cancerous cells.
Mohs Micrographic Surgery
Mohs Micrographic Surgery (MMS) is the most precise surgical treatment for nonmelanoma skin cancer. It is performed by a dermatologist trained as a surgeon and a pathologist. During this specialized procedure, the physician removes precise layers of tissue and evaluates the margins under the microscope while the patient waits. This process continues until the surgical margins are clear and all tumor cells have been removed. This technique is effective for select BCCs and SCCs, as well as melanoma in situ and melanoma with inadequate clinical margins (i.e., thin melanomas).
After the surgical removal of the tumor (debulking), tissue is quickly frozen and sliced into fragile sections to be processed on glass slides by a specialized Mohs histotechnician. This allows the surgeon to immediately examine each microscopic root under the microscope to identify areas of residual tumor. Then, the Mohs map is used to precisely remove an additional layer of tissue at that location, sparing the maximum amount of healthy tissue.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is a noninvasive procedure for treating many forms of cancer like basal cell skin cancer Memphis and precancerous lesions. It pairs a photosensitizing agent with a light source to produce reactive oxygen species that destroy the target tissue. The technique is also thought to stimulate the body’s natural defenses, giving it an immunomodulatory effect.
In PDT, a photosensitizer (called ALA or Levulan) is applied to the skin of the treatment area. After a short incubation, the site is exposed to light with a wavelength that matches the absorption band of the ALA, which then activates it. The resulting reactive oxygen species kill the fast-growing abnormal cells and can eradicate the lesion.
This is a very specialized procedure, and it can only be performed in doctor’s offices or dermatology practices with the equipment and expertise. Dr. Michele Green offers PDT in her Upper East Side dermatology office. She is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor featured in New York Magazine and Super Doctors.
Imiquimod is a topical medication that induces an immune response in the skin. It works by stimulating innate and acquired immune responses, which leads to inflammatory cell infiltration, followed by apoptosis of the diseased tissue. It is an alternative to surgery for treating actinic keratosis and other precancerous skin growths.
It is essential to talk to your doctor before using this medication. Tell them about any medical conditions, allergies, or other medications you are taking. You should also avoid direct sunlight (including sunlamps) and use sunscreen when using this medication. It can make your skin sensitive to sunlight and can increase the chances of a sunburn.
Imiquimod is not recommended for immunocompromised patients (including organ transplant patients) and may exacerbate autoimmune disorders. It can also cause a worsening of warts in people with HPV infection. It is essential to apply the medication as directed by your doctor. One application daily before bedtime should be sufficient to treat the affected area.
Interferons are a class of proteins secreted by cells in response to virus infection. They work by stimulating infected and nearby cells to produce substances that block or destroy viruses. They also boost immune cells to attack infected or cancerous cells. Interferons are grouped into two types: type I, alpha and beta forms, and type II, gamma forms.
These Squamous Cell Skin Cancer cancers grow on the squamous cells of the outer layer of the skin. They can spread if left untreated. It is the most common form of skin cancer that can be cured with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Your doctor will inject interferon alfa-2b into your body through a vein (IV) or muscle (intramuscularly) or directly into a lesion (intralesionally). After treatment, you may experience flu-like symptoms like fever, tiredness, and aches and pains. If these are severe, tell your doctor. Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help relieve these side effects.