Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Surgery is the most common treatment for SCC and is used for removing the main lump (the tumour) on the skin. Surgeons will remove the lesion and then suture the wound, or if needed use a skin graft or skin flap.
Surgery is also sometimes needed if cancer cells have broken away from the original tumour and travelled to the lymph glands. In this case, your surgeons will remove all of the lymph glands in an affected area (lymphadenectomy). The main areas are in the neck, under the arms and the groin. This is a bigger operation and patients often stay in hospital for a number of days following surgery to recover. Tubes, called drains, are used to remove excess fluid from the surgical area afterwards and often need to stay in place for a few weeks until the fluid discharge settles. Some patients can go home with their drain if they have been taught how to look after these. This arrangement will be dependent on what service is available locally.
Radiotherapy can be used after surgery to treat any remaining tiny tumour cells around the surgical area. This involves a number of visits to your local radiotherapy unit often over a short period of time. Radiotherapy does not leave any scars, but can cause some inflammation.
Tumour cells can move beyond the lymph glands, into parts of the body that are difficult to reach surgically, or to multiple areas such that medicine to treat the whole body is needed in the form of chemotherapy. Occasionally this can be used to shrink tumours before surgery, or to reduce the risk of it coming back following surgery.
Your doctors may suggest you use an ointment (Efudix or Aldara) to treat areas of superficial squamous cell carcinoma (Bowen’s disease). These ointments are designed to make the affected area inflamed (hot and red) so that the bodies own defence cells (immune system) can enter and destroy any abnormal tumour cells. Treatment is normally applied for 3–6 weeks and can take up to 12 weeks to then check if it has been successful
Skin anatomy and types of skin cancer
Basal cell carcinoma
Surgery and reconstruction
Lymph node surgery