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Squamous Cell Carcinoma (Invasive Squamous Cell Carcinoma)

Squamous cell carcinoma is a common type of skin cancer caused by an overgrowth of squamous cells in your epidermis, the top layer of your skin.

Learn about the treatment options for Squamous Cell Carcinomas at the UPMC Pituitary Center of Excellence.

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What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinomas are defined as relatively slow-growing malignant (cancerous) tumors that can spread (metastasize) to surrounding tissue if left untreated. Squamous cell carcinoma may spread to the sinuses or skull base, or other areas of the brain.

Squamous cell carcinoma is a cancer that arises from squamous cells, which are flat, scale-like cells that compose most of the upper layer of the skin. These cells also line passageways and hollow organs in the body including the lungs, esophagus, cervix, mouth, nasal passageways, and throat.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer in the United States, with more than 200,000 new cases reported per year.

At UPMC, the preferred surgical treatment for squamous cell carcinoma of the sinuses and skull base is the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA). This innovative, minimally invasive technique uses the nose and nasal cavities as natural corridors to access hard-to-reach or previously inoperable tumors. Benefits of minimally invasive EEA surgery include:

  • No incisions to heal
  • No disfigurement
  • Faster recovery time

Diagnosing Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Cases of squamous cell carcinoma in the sinuses, skull base, or brain require imaging studies such as MRI or CT scans to identify the presence and exact location of the tumor.

Symptoms will vary based on the location and size of the tumor.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatments

Treatment for squamous cell carcinoma varies based on the location and size of the tumor. Larger tumors are surgically removed.

Surgery: Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA)

Squamous cell carcinomas of the sinuses and skull base can be approached directly through the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA). This state-of-the-art, minimally invasive approach allows surgeons to access the tumor through the natural corridor of the nose, without making an open incision. Surgeons then remove the tumor through the nose and nasal cavities.

EEA offers the benefits of no incisions to heal, no disfigurement, and a faster recovery time.

UPMC's neurosurgical team may recommend a combination of surgical and non-surgical approaches to treat squamous cell carcinomas.

Radiation therapy

Radiation is commonly used to treat brain tumors, since surgery isn't always an option. Radiation therapy may be delivered:

  • Externally by directing radiation at the tumor from an outside source
  • Internally by placing radioactive material directly in the body near the cancer
  • Using stereotactic radiosurgery to deliver a concentrated dose of radiation directly to the brain tumor.


Chemotherapy treatment uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, chemotherapy may be taken by mouth, injected, or placed directly into the brain tumor site.

Minimally Invasive Brain Surgery

Minimally Invasive Brain Surgery Offers Hope

Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA)
Pituitary Tumor Removal Using the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA) at UPMC