Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing form of skin cancer.
Skin cancer is divided into two major groups: nonmelanoma and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is a type of nonmelanoma skin cancer, and is the most common form of cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, 75% of all skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas.
Basal cell carcinoma starts in the top layer of the skin called the epidermis. It grows slowly and is painless. A new skin growth that bleeds easily or does not heal well may suggest basal cell carcinoma. The majority of these cancers occur on areas of skin that are regularly exposed to sunlight or other ultraviolet radiation. They may also appear on the scalp. Basal cell skin cancer used to be more common in people over age 40, but is now often diagnosed in younger people.
Your risk for basal cell skin cancer is higher if you have:
Basal cell skin cancer almost never spreads. But, if left untreated, it may grow into surrounding areas and nearby tissues and bone.
Basal cell carcinoma may look only slightly different than normal skin. The cancer may appear as skin bump or growth that is:
In some cases the skin may be just slightly raised or even flat.
You may have:
Your doctor will check your skin and look at the size, shape, color, and texture of any suspicious areas.
If skin cancer is a possibility, a piece of skin will be removed from the area and examined under a microscope. This is called a skin biopsy. This must be done to confirm the diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma or other skin cancers. There are many types of skin biopsies. The exact procedure depends on the location of the suspected skin cancer.
Treatment varies depending on the size, depth, and location of the basal cell cancer. It will be removed using one of the following procedures:
The rate of basal cell skin cancer returning is about 1% with Mohs surgery, and up to 10% for other forms of treatment. Smaller basal cell carcinomas are less likely to come back than larger ones. Basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
You should follow-up with your doctor as recommended and regularly examine your skin once a month, using a mirror to check hard-to-see places. Call your doctor if you notice any suspicious skin changes.
Untreated, basal cell cancer can spread to nearby tissues or structures, causing damage. This is most worrisome around the nose, eyes, and ears.
Call your health care provider if you notice any changes in the color, size, texture, or appearance of any area of skin. You should also call if an existing spot becomes painful or swollen, or if it starts to bleed or itch.
The best way to prevent skin cancer is to reduce your exposure to sunlight. Ultraviolet light is most intense at midday, so try to avoid sun exposure during these hours. Protect the skin by wearing hats, long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, or pants.
Always use sunscreen:
Examine the skin regularly for development of suspicious growths or changes in:
Also note if an existing skin sore bleeds, itches, is red and swollen (inflamed), or is painful.
Rodent ulcer; Skin cancer - basal cell; Cancer - skin - basal cell