Basal Cell Carcinoma

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.


Reference Sources:

1. Australasian College of Dermatologists

2. Cancer Council Victoria

3. Cancer Council Australia

6 replies
  1. Molly says:

    My sister went through Mohs micrographic surgery. She had a spot on her nose that would not clear up. Doctor said that this type of surgery would be the best for her. She had to have 5 layers of skin removed. She had to wait an hour between each removal of the skin. Now she is religious about applying sunscreen and always wears a wide brimmed hat, no matter if she is just going to be outside for a few minutes.

  2. Sunscreen is a must says:

    I always wear sunscreen on my face. It is just one of the steps that I take in the mornings. And my makeup also has SPF in it. I am very cautious as I never want to get skin cancer. Even in winter, SPF is applied. Many feel that only summer is a time to apply SPF, but I totally disagree with that. I feel that my skin needs the SPF because you can burn in any weather and you can have the damage done to your skin in any weather!

  3. Family genes says:

    Cancer runs in my family. I am not sure if basal cell carcinoma is heredity or not, but colon and skin cancer are both in my family. I just do not feel like I can take a chance with anything. I wear SPF in at least 50, and always rub in more than I need to. I have not had a sunburn in years! I take the necessary precautions so I don't have to suffer years down the road.

  4. Milli says:

    I never want to get Basal cell carcinoma. I know when I was younger, since I am very fair skinned, I always burned. I fear that those burns will one day lead me to skin cancer. I do monthly checks of my skin and am very cautious now. I apply sunscreen, wears hats, stay in the shade and never really am out from 10 to 4. I do not have any issues with my skin right now. Can anyone answer this for long does it take for say a nodule to pop up or for an open sore to pop up? Do you think that the open sore would have been from a previous burn? I have not had any sunburns in at least 5 years. Do you think that I am out of the woods? Or could the damaged skin pop up even know that I am taking care of my skin? Would there be anything for me to do now, other than to take the precautions?

  5. Catherina J. Lenone says:

    My father suffered from skin cancer. So I knew that I had to keep my skin covered up. My mother did a great job instilling in my mind that sunscreen is very important. I apply it every time I go outside, even on cloudy days. People do not realize that even on cloudy days, you can still get burned or damage your skin. I apply every 90 minutes. I also keep chapstick on my lips that has SPF in them as I will not allow them to burn. I check my skin over each month, and make sure on my yearly physical that my doctor checks over my skin as well. Many think that I am over cautious by I am not going to get basal cell carcinoma just because I can not take care of my own skin!


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