Common Treatments for
High-Risk Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

If your healthcare provider assessed your squamous cell skin cancer to be high risk, there are a number of treatment options that are commonly used. Treatment will most commonly include surgical removal of the tumor. This may be accomplished with different procedures.

Surgical Excision:

Wide Local Excision (WLE)

In this surgical procedure, the tumor is removed along with extra healthy tissue to ensure all tumor cells are removed. After the surgery, the extra tissue is analyzed to ensure the edges are cancer-free.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery (MMS)

In this surgical procedure, the tumor is removed layer by layer, until no cancer cells are visible under the microscope. Each layer of tissue is analyzed during the surgery, while patients wait, to ensure no more tissue is removed than required. If tumor cells remain, the process is repeated.


Radiation Therapy:

Definitive Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy can be effective for treating squamous cell skin cancer by interfering with the cancer cells’ ability to divide and grow. If surgery is not feasible, radiation therapy may be used as the main treatment for your squamous cell skin cancer. In this situation, it is called “curative” or “definitive” radiation therapy.

Adjuvant Radiation Therapy

For high-risk squamous cell skin cancer that is treated with surgery, radiation therapy may be used after surgery, depending on surgical findings or other patient characteristics. In this situation, it is called “adjuvant radiation therapy”. 


Systemic Therapy:

Systemic therapy may be used when surgery or radiation therapy are not options, or when the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Three types of systemic therapy are typically used in this setting:


works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells.

Targeted therapy

attacks specific types of cells, with less harm to normal cells.


stimulates the immune system to help the body fight the cancer.


Following treatment, it’s important to see your healthcare provider at regular intervals. This follow-up schedule will be determined by you and your healthcare provider.

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