Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. More than two million cases of this skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year.

This skin cancer usually develops after years of sun exposure. Around 50 years of age, the risk of developing skin cancer increases significantly, although patients younger than 50 years of age also can get BCC if they have some risk factors. These include those individuals who spent a lot of time outdoors for work or leisure, have frequently used tanning beds, and have certain physical traits such as Light-colored or freckled skin, blue, green, or gray eyes, blond or red hair.

This type of skin cancer grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Although rare, BCC can feel painful or itch. Usually, the only sign of BCC is a growth on the skin.

This skin cancer usually develops on skin that gets sun exposure, such as on the head, neck, and back of the hands. BCC is especially common on the face, often forming on the nose. It is possible to get BCC on any part of the body, including the trunk, legs, and arms.

BCCs may look like a sore that:
Bleeds easily, won’t heal, oozes or crusts over, or appears healed but then returns again. It is also sometimes confused as a “pimple” or a sore due to eyeglasses.

Diagnosis & Treatment

A basal cell carcinoma is diagnosed after an initial skin biopsy. Once diagnosed, there are several ways to treat BCC:

Excision: This is a surgical procedure that we often can perform during an office visit. It involves numbing the area to be treated and surgically removing any remaining tumor plus some normal-looking skin around the tumor. This procedure involves sutures that are placed both deep and on the outside; depending on the area, the patient returns in 1-3 weeks to have their sutures removed.

Curettage and electrodessication: This treatment consists of two steps. First, the tumor is scraped, then an instrument that uses electricity is used to destroy and cauterize any remaining cancer cells. No sutures are used when a skin cancer is treated this way.

Mohs surgery: ( See Mohs surgery). For facial skin cancers or those greater than 2 cm on non-facial areas, Mohs surgery is the preferred method of removal as it offers the highest chance of cure (and thus lowest chance of recurrence) of the tumor.

Radiation: This treatment usually is reserved for BCCs that cannot be cut out, or when surgery may not be the best choice.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT): This treatment uses light to remove early skin cancers.

Prescription creams: Creams that contain a drug, such as Imiquimod can sometimes be used to treat early skin cancers or shrink them before their eventual removal (usually by Mohs surgery).

Outcome

Nearly every basal cell cancer can be cured, especially when the cancer is found early and treated.

Do you have any questions about Basal Cell Carcinoma? If you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists in our Los Alamitos or Agoura Hills office, please contact us for a consultation.