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Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Treatment, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: May 15, 2024

What is the Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

One of the most common type of skin cancers, squamous cell carcinoma can become fatal if not treated in the initial stages. The cell is usually found in areas which are exposed to the UV Rays, Exposed areas like the head, neck, lips, arms, hands, legs and ears are most prone to the disease. This type of skin cancer should be detected and treated in the early stages itself, in a stage where they can be removed and destroyed without any serious threats. Large squamous cell cancers become harder to treat as they start growing fast and the risk of recurrence also increases. In some very rare cases, the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes and distant parts of the body as well. When this happens, chemo or radiation therapy becomes important.

In cases where the cancer is detected early, minor surgeries are sufficient to treat the problem. However, the size and the location of the cancer cell matters and according to this the doctor decides on which technique to use. Methods like excision, Mohs surgery, lymph node surgery, cryosurgery, topical chemotherapy and dermabrasion may be required. In SCC the size and the location matters a lot while choosing the method of treatment. A tumor which is larger than 2cm has a 15.2% risk of recurrence and 30.3% of metastasis while tumors smaller than that has 7.4% risk of recurrence with 9.1% chance of metastasis.

How is the Squamous Cell Carcinoma treatment done?

There are a number of treatment options available for this type of cancer. Depending on the severity and the nature of squamous cell carcinoma the treatment is decided. Excision is one of the treatment methods in which the tumor is cut out along with a tiny margin or skin. Electrodessication and cutterage is another method in which smaller squamous cell cancers are effectively removed. However, the cell has to be lesser than 1 cm in diameter to be removed. The third surgery treatment is called Mohs Surgery. In Mohs surgery which has the highest cure rate and is the best for tumors which are larger than 2 cm in size. However, the surgery is complex and more time consuming than the other methods.

There are radiation therapies available for this cancer as well which is a good option for individuals who have large tumors in areas where surgery is harder. However, this treatment method is not the first option for younger people in order to avoid long term risks. Radiation is also used after surgery when the entire cancer is not removed. Radiation can also be used for cancer which comes back after being treated once. When the problem is detected in its early stages cryotherapy can also be used. This is also used when people cannot have surgeries, but it cannot be used when patients have larger and invasive tumors. For advanced treatment of large tumors lymph node dissection and systemic chemotherapy is needed.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

Individuals who see domed shaped, red and bumpy patches on their skin may have the disease and should therefore be tested for it. These bumps can start bleeding with scratching as well.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Individuals who do not show symptoms of having bumpy and scaly patches on their skin are not eligible for the treatment.

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Are there any side effects?

The treatment for SCC has a number of side effects and patients should consider all of them before considering any single approach. Some of the side effects of these treatments include dizziness, difficulty passing urine, bruising, shivering and feeling cold, hypertrophic scarring, skin tightness, hair loss, appetite changes, and constipation among many others.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

Patients suffering from this disease need to be careful about not exposing themselves to UV Rays and continue their medication for the prescribed time period. Wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen is a must for patients. You need to limit your outdoor activities as well as this condition has a high chance of recurring as well.

How long does it take to recover?

If the squamous cell carcinoma is not treated in the initial stages it may become fatal. The surgeries for the initial stages can be done very easily and the patient recovers fast as well. However, if the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes and other distant parts then the chances of recovery is very low.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

If not detected in the early stages, the treatment can be very expensive. For chemotherapy and radiation therapy you may be charged anything between Rs 10 to 20 lakhs.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

The results of the treatment for SCC is permanent. However, the cancers may metastasis or recur depending on the treatment the patient received.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

There are certain natural skin cancer treatments which can also be tried in case the patient does not want to seek help via the conventional treatment methods. Eggplant extracts and frankincense and myrrh oil has been very widely used to treat this disease. Eating food which helps fight cancer and altering your lifestyle to avoid anything which creates more complications should be followed as well.

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Written ByDr. Sanjaya MishraMD - OncologyOncology
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