What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinoma is an uncontrolled growth or lesion that occurs in the lining of the deepest layer of the epidermis, where basal cells are located. Basal cell carcinoma is the most predominant form of all cancers, with almost 3 million cases diagnosed each year in the US.
Basal cell carcinomas are typically caused by a combination of cumulative sun damage and intense UV exposure. They often present as persistent red patches, shiny bumps or scars, or open sores that won’t heal. Although it can be disfiguring if the lesions are allowed to grow, basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads past the original tumor to other parts of the body and is not typically life-threatening.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Warning Signs
Early detection is critical when it comes to skin cancer, so it is important that you perform monthly self-examinations and pay attention to any changes or new growths on your skin.
Here are some red flags to look out for if you suspect you have basal cell carcinoma:
- Open sores that do not heal and bleed or ooze. These typically occur on the face, chest, and extremities.
- Irritated, red patches of skin that may itch or become crusty.
- Shiny nodules that appear slightly translucent pink, red, or white. For darker haired people, these may present in darker shades and appear mole-like.
- An area that looks like a scar, but is waxy or strangely colored. These areas typically have poorly defined borders and a shiny, tight appearance.
- A red or pink growth that has a crusted center and elevated border.
If you find a growth or lesion, but don’t think it indicates basal cell carcinoma based on these signs, it is still important to discuss with your dermatologist or plastic surgeon.
Treating Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinomas can be highly treatable if detected early. If left untreated, however, basal cell carcinoma can be disfiguring. Most commonly, the following procedures are used to treat basal cell carcinomas:
- Mohs micrographic surgery is a highly effective treatment option for basal cell carcinoma. Typically performed by an experienced dermatologist, Mohs surgery involves progressively removing and observing cancerous tissue until only healthy tissue remains. Coordinated reconstruction with a board certified plastic surgeon is usually scheduled shortly after Mohs is performed.
- Surgical excision with frozen section margin control is a treatment option for those who do not require Mohs surgery and is performed entirely by Dr. Parker. This procedure involves surgically removing the basal cell carcinoma and a margin of skin surrounding it. The tissue is then microscopically evaluated to determine if all cancerous tissue has been removed.
What to Do if You Suspect You Have Basal Cell Carcinoma
If you think you have skin cancer or have noted any changes in your skin, it’s important to contact a dermatologist or board certified plastic surgeon right away.