What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. However, it rarely kills anyone or metastasizes, but is still considered to be malignant due to the fact that it can cause significant damage and disfigurement. About 30% of Caucasians will develop basal cell carcinoma in their lifespan.
What are the symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Signs of basal cell carcinoma include shiny, pearly nodules. But there can also be red patches that look similar to eczema. It is often difficult to tell if one has basal cell carcinoma unless the skin is examined by a doctor. It often resembles acne scars, actinic keratosis, and cryodestruction inflammation. It most often occurs in areas that are exposed to the sun. About 80% of cases are seen on the head and neck.
To diagnose basal cell carcinoma, a doctor will do a skin biopsy. This entails taking a small piece of the skin and sending it to a lab to be examined. Under local anesthesia, a shave biopsy could be done. Other methods could be used, but a shave biopsy is the most common.
Examine your skin on a monthly basis. If you notice any of the following, schedule a doctor’s appointment to have your skin looked at:
- An open sore that bleeds, oozes and crusts over could be a sign of Basal cell carcinoma (BCC). This sore could heal up and then bleed again. A sore that does not heal is often a sign of BCC.
- Any reddish patches that are irritated, itch and crust over could also be a sign of BCC. They may form on the face, shoulders, chest, arms and legs.
- A shiny or pearly nodule that is either pink, white or red. These are often confused with moles and can be tan, brown or black in color in darker haired persons.
- A pink growth on the skin that has blood vessels that are developing on the surface. It will have a slightly elevated rolled border and a crusted indentation in the center.
- A scar like area could be a sign of BCC. If it is white, yellow or waxy in appearance, and has poorly defined borders with shiny and taut skin, BCC may be present. This could signify that there is invasive BCC that is larger than it appears to be.
How to Prevent Basal Cell Carcinoma?
There are many things that one can do to prevent Basal Cell Carcinoma. First off, do not allow the skin to burn, and always apply sunscreen. It is best to apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before heading outdoors to allow it time to soak into the skin. Reapply every 2 hours. Use a sunscreen that is at least SPF 15, if not higher. Seek shade when you are outdoors and avoid the sun from 10 AM to 4 PM. Wear sunglasses and wide brimmed hats and light long sleeved clothing. Avoid tanning beds and booths at all costs.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Treatment
If you are unfortunate enough to have basal cell carcinoma, there are many treatment options you and your doctor can discuss. Using local anesthesia, your dermatologist could perform Mohs Micrographic surgery. A very thin layer of the tissue with the tumor will be removed. The tissue will be examined under a microscope, and if the tumor is still present in the layer examined, the process will be repeated until it is tumor free. This treatment has the highest cure rate.
Excisional surgery could also be done. Using local anesthesia, a scalpel will remove the growth along with normal skin around the cancer. The skin will be closed with stitches and the tissue is sent to a lab to determine if all the malignant cells have been removed. About 90% of patients have been cured using this treatment.
The good thing is that BCC is treatable. However, it can be prevented just by taking proper precautions.