Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. It arises from the basal cells, which are found in the outermost layer of the skin called the epidermis. BCC typically develops in areas of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, scalp, and arms, although it can occur in other areas as well.
Excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, either from sunlight or tanning beds, is a significant risk factor for developing BCC.
Basal cell carcinoma usually appears as a small, raised, and shiny bump on the skin. It may be pink, red, or white in color and may have a pearly or translucent appearance. Over time, the bump may develop a central depression, and it may bleed or form a crust. BCC grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body (metastasize), but it can invade surrounding tissues and cause local damage if left untreated.
Diagnosis of BCC is typically made through a visual examination by a healthcare professional. If a suspicious lesion is identified, a biopsy may be performed, which involves removing a small sample of the affected skin for laboratory analysis. The biopsy helps confirm the diagnosis and determine the specific subtype of BCC.
Treatment options for basal cell carcinoma depend on various factors, including the size, location, and subtype of the tumor, as well as the individual’s overall health. The primary goal of treatment is to remove the cancerous cells while preserving the normal function and appearance of the skin. Common treatment approaches for BCC include:
Surgical excision: The tumor is surgically removed along with a margin of healthy tissue to ensure complete removal.
Mohs surgery: This specialized surgical technique involves removing the tumor layer by layer, examining each layer under a microscope, and only removing tissue until no cancer cells are detected, thus preserving as much healthy tissue as possible.
Electrodesiccation and curettage: The tumor is scraped off with a sharp instrument (curette), and the remaining cancer cells are destroyed using an electric current (electrodesiccation).
Cryotherapy: The tumor is frozen with liquid nitrogen, causing the cancer cells to die.
Topical medications: Certain creams or gels, such as imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil, may be applied to the affected area to promote the destruction of cancer cells.
In some cases, other treatment modalities, such as radiation therapy or targeted therapy, may be considered, especially for tumors in challenging locations or those that have recurred or metastasized.
Prevention of basal cell carcinoma involves minimizing exposure to UV radiation, using sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF), wearing protective clothing, seeking shade during peak sunlight hours, and avoiding tanning beds. Regular self-examination of the skin and routine visits to a dermatologist for skin cancer screenings are also crucial for early detection and prompt treatment of any suspicious lesions.
Overall, basal cell carcinoma has a high cure rate when detected and treated early. It is important to address any concerning skin changes promptly and seek medical attention to ensure appropriate diagnosis and management.