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Patient Information: I have squamous cell carcinoma what can I do?



There are several effective treatment options available for squamous cell carcinoma. To decide which one will be the most appropriate depends very much on the individual case and should be discussed with your physician.

Mohs Surgery / Surgery


Surgery is the most effective treatment. The tumor will be excised and the wound will be closed with a few stitches (amount depending on size of affected area). Surgery always requires a local anaesthetic. Usually the wound will heal within two weeks. Mohs surgery is a special type of surgery where the surgeon is specially trained. During the surgery a microscopic method is used to make sure all of the affected skin areas are excised. This type of surgery is rather complicated but has a high cure rate.

Advantages of the treatment

  • It has the highest cure rate of all surgical treatments.
  • The removed tissue can be examined microscopically to determine if the tumor has been totally excised.

Disadvantages of the treatment

  • There are local anesthetics required.
  • It is a rather complicated proceedure.

Cryosurgery


Here liquid nitrogen is applied to the affected surface with a cotton tip applicator or spray device. Liquid nitrogen is extremely cold (-195,8 C = -320,44 F) and will cause death of all cells of this area. Unfortunately there is no control as to how deep the tissue has been destroyed. Therefore reoccurences are not uncommon.

Advantages of the treatment

  • It usually is an effective treatment.
  • It is a quick procedure.
  • It only requires one or two visits to the doctor.
  • In general it is a rather cheap treatment. (?)

Disadvantages of the treatment

  • The treatment causes discomfort and/or pain.
  • Due to freezing the skin may presumably react with blisters, reddening, swelling or a change of color in skin patches.
  • An infection may occur due to delayed wound-healing.
  • There is a risk of scarring.

Curettage


Curettage describes the scraping away of a superficial skin disorder. Usually a scalpel or another sharp device, called a curette, is used for scraping. Unfortunately there is no control if all of the affected tissue has been removed. Therefore reoccurances are not uncommon.

Advantages of the treatment

  • It usually is an effective treatment.

Disadvantages of the treatment

  • The treatment usually requires a local anesthetic.
  • Occasionally, a change of color or an infection of the skin may occur.
  • There is a possibility of scaring.

Radiotherapy


This therapy uses X-rays to destroy damaged cells. Usually the affected area needs to be treated several times to reach a dose that is effective, depending on the size and stage of the squamous cell carcinoma. Therefore the therapy might last several weeks.

Advantages of the treatment

  • This treatment has a good cure rate.
  • It is good for elderly patients who are not physically able to undergo surgery.

Disadvantages of the treatment

  • There is a risk of scarring.
  • There are several treatment sessions required.

Other Treatments


Laser
Affected cells are destroyed by the laser.

Interferon alfa
Interferon alpha is not yet an approved treatment for squamous cell carcinoma, although at the moment there are ongoing trials with interferon alpha for treating squamous cell carcinoma. Usually it is injected directly into the affected area and should support the immune defense system. Unfortunately this therapy is connected with several disturbing side effects e.g. flu-like symptoms such as fever, drowsiness and nausea. Sometimes it may also cause a reduction of white, sometimes even red blood cells.



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