Basal Cell Carcinoma


What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the skin. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) accounts for over 75% of all skin cancers. It usually occurs in middle-aged and elderly people, especially those who are fair-skinned. It is more common in people who have regular prolonged sun exposure. Basal cell carcinoma develops slowly and causes a lump or a small, painless, smooth-edged ulcer. It most often occurs on the face, head, or neck. Basal cell carcinoma has a very small likelihood of spread to other parts of the body.

How is it treated? The treatment for basal cell carcinoma is removal of the growth using one or more of the following procedures. The choice of treatment depends on the type of BCC and its size and position on the skin. Types of BCC include superficial (thin), nodular (intermediate thickness) and infiltrating (deep). Possible treatments are:

  • Excision, which is cutting out the affected area and then closing the wound with sutures (stitches)

  • Mohs surgery (a method of removing and analyzing layers of the growth and surrounding skin)

  • Removing the growth with a sharp instrument in a scraping manner, then cauterizing (electrically burning) the area. 

  • Topical creams may play a secondary role in some instances

  • Radiation therapy can be considered in some situations

Some of these methods are useful only in special situations or on one type of cancer. Ask your health care provider for advice about the best treatment for your condition. Mohs have the highest cure rates, but non-aggressive forms of BCC are often treated without excision. Skin cancer that is untreated or partially treated may result in more severe cancer problems.

What are the long-term effects?

If the BCC cancer cells exists, they will continue to grow unless they are removed.  BCC stays in the skin in approximately 99.9% of cases and the cancer cells are very unlikely to spread to lymph nodes and internal organs. If you have had one BCC, you are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer again in another location. Skin cancers may recur in the same location but more likely a new spot will develop in another area. Your dermatologist will want to examine you at 6- to 12-month intervals.


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