Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, affecting one million Americans each year. BCC is the most common of all cancers. Anyone with a history of sun exposure can develop BCC. Basal Cell Carcinoma arises in basal cells, which are at the base of the epidermis.
Chronic exposure to the sun is the cause of almost all BCCs, which most commonly occur on exposed parts of the body (the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, and back).
The Five Warning Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma
- An Open Sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts and remains open for a few weeks only to heal up and then bleed again. A persistent, non-healing sore is a very common sign of an early BCC.
- A Reddish Patch or irritated area, frequently occurring on the face, chest, shoulders, arms, or legs. Sometimes the patch crusts and it may also itch. At other times, the patch persists with no noticeable discomfort.
- A Pink Growth with a slightly elevated rolled border and crusted indentation in the center. As the growth slowly enlarges, tiny blood vessels may develop on the surface.
- A Shiny Bump or nodule that is pearly or translucent and is often pink, red or white. The bump can also be tan, black or brown, especially in dark-haired people and can be confused with a mole.
- A Scar-Like Area that is white, yellow or waxy, that often has poorly defined borders; the skin itself appears skinny and taut. This warning sign can indicate the presence of small roots which make the tumor larger than it appears on the surface.
The choice of treatment is based on the type, size, location, and depth of penetration of the tumor, as well as the patient’s age and general health.
- Curettage and Electrodessication: the growth is peeled away with a curette and the heat produced by an electrocautery needle destroys the residual tumor and controls bleeding. This treatment works well for small and superficial lesions.
- Excisional Surgery: the growth is cut out and then closed with stitches.
- Mohs Micrographic Surgery: Microscopically controlled excisions. This technique minimizes removal of normal skin and is reserved for large recurrent or difficult to treat areas of the skin.
- Immune System Stimulators (imiquimod: These agents are applied 3-5 times weekly, for 4-6 weeks to remove unwanted irregular cells.