Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School



There are many ways to treat squamous cell carcinoma that has not spread. These include:

  • Cutting away the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it. If a large area of skin is removed, a skin graft may be necessary.

  • Scraping away the cancer with a surgical tool. A doctor the uses an electric probe to kill any cancerous cells left behind.

  • Freezing cancer cells with a chemical called liquid nitrogen. This treatment usually is reserved for very small tumors. It is also used when a patch of skin looks abnormal but isn't yet cancerous.

  • Destroying the cancer with radiation.

  • Shaving away the cancer, one thin layer at a time. Each layer is examined under the microscope as it is removed. This technique helps the doctor preserve as much healthy skin as possible.

  • Applying drugs directly to the skin or injecting them into the tumor.

  • Using a narrow laser beam to destroy the cancer.

Which treatment is best for you? That depends on many factors, including the size and location of the cancer, whether it has returned after previous treatment, your age, and your general health.

Once your treatment is finished, your doctor will schedule regular follow-up skin exams. He or she may want to see you every three months for the first year, for example, and then less often after that.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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