Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second-most common type of skin cancer and is similar to basal cell carcinoma in that it grows locally. It occurs most often on the face and areas of the body that are exposed to sunlight, but it can occur anywhere on the skin, including the genital area. Squamous cell carcinoma is potentially more serious than basal cell carcinoma because of its greater tendency to spread.

When detected early, squamous cell carcinoma is easily treatable. Regular skin cancer screenings are important for early detection of this and other types of skin cancer. If left untreated, squamous cell carcinoma can be potentially fatal.

Signs and Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

It is important to see your dermatologist whenever you notice a change in a mole or area of your skin. Squamous cell carcinoma symptoms include:

  • A sore that won't heal, or that heals and then regrows
  • An elevated growth on the skin that feels rough
  • A reddish, scaly patch that grows slowly

If you have a sore or scab for more than two months without healing, or a flat patch of scaly skin that won't go away, make an appointment to see your dermatologist.

Expert Treatment for Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a highly treatable form of cancer, especially when detected early. At ColumbiaDoctors Dermatology we offer a full range of treatments, which include surgery, radiation therapy, and cyrosurgery. Our physicians will help you develop the best treatment plan for your specific set of circumstances. Treatments include:


Surgery, also called conventional surgical excision, is often used to remove high-risk squamous cell carcinomas. Surgery involves administering a local anesthetic and then removing the tumor and a margin of surrounding tissue. The tissue is then sent to a dermatopathologist who can verify that the entire tumor was removed.

Mohs surgery

Mohs surgery involves the surgical removal of cancerous tissue in several stages. The tissue is examined under a microscope between each stage.

Curettage and electrodesiccation

After administering a local anesthetic, your dermatologist scrapes away layers of cancerous tissue with a knife-like instrument called a currette. An electric needle is then used to control the bleeding and destroy cancerous cells that may remain.


Cryosurgery is a form of treatment for squamous cell carcinomas in which liquid nitrogen is applied to the area, freezing the abnormal tissue. The tumor then resolves and the skin heals over 7-10 days.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy destroys cancer cells and shrinks tumors using X-rays. Radiation therapy can be useful in conjunction with surgery for more advanced squamous cell carcinomas. It is also used for areas that are hard to treat surgically.

Topical and systemic chemotherapy

Chemotherapy targets the tumor with chemotherapy drugs, which are administered either topically (as a cream that is applied to the area) or by IV or pills (systemic). Topical chemotherapy is usually used for low-risk squamous cell carcinomas, because it doesn't always penetrate all layers of skin, nor does it leave tissue that can be biopsied.

Reconstructive Surgery

Sometimes your treatment will leave a wound which can be closed with surgical sutures. When the wound is large, your surgeon may need to perform reconstructive surgery. This involves closing the wound with a skin flap (shifting nearby tissue) or skin graft (taking skin from another area of the body), which will help restore your skin to its original appearance. Reconstructive surgery can often be performed on the same day as your cancer surgery.


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161 Fort Washington Avenue, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10032

ColumbiaDoctors Midtown
51 West 51st Street, Suite 390
New York, NY 10020