Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer and the most common type of cancer overall in the United States. BCC is most often caused by ultraviolet (UV) exposure and usually develops on skin that has been exposed to the sun on a regular basis throughout life, such as the nose, temples, ears, neck, arms, upper chest, and upper back. However, BCC can appear in areas without chronic sun exposure. People who have used tanning beds tend to get BCC earlier in life and anywhere on the body. This type of skin cancer typically grows slowly and rarely metastasizes to other areas of the body. However, early basal cell carcinoma treatment is important because BCC can grow on the skin surface causing large sores and can invade deeply into underlying structures including bone.
Anyone can get one or multiple BCCs, but people who are at greater risk often have:
- Very light skin color or freckled skin
- Blue, green, or gray eyes
- Blonde or red hair
- Difficulty tanning; easy burning to sunlight
- Spent a lot of time outdoors in the sun for work or activities
- Infrequently use sunscreen or protective clothing
- Have used tanning beds
- Have previously had a BCC (40% increased risk of having a second one)
- First degree relative with BCC
- Been taking a medication that suppresses the immune system
There is a genetic condition that can cause someone to have numerous BCCs, often starting early in life (20s).
Often a new basal cell carcinoma will be slowly growing, itchy, tender, painful, non-healing, and may bleed on its own without being scratched. BCC can appear on the skin in different ways, but there are several classic appearances:
- Pearly, pink, dome-shaped bump on the skin with visible blood vessels
- Shiny pink or white flat area of skin, especially on the chest or back
- Waxy, thick, firm, scar-like change to the skin
- A non-healing sore with a “rolled border” and a depressed center like a crater
Basal Cell Carcinoma Treatment Colorado Springs & Monument
Your dermatologist will often find basal cell carcinoma on skin examination, but the only way to make the diagnosis is by skin biopsy, performed in the office. All or part of the growth will be removed and examined under the microscope by a pathologist. Once making the diagnosis with biopsy, there are several various basal cell carcinoma treatment options which may include:
- Excision: a surgical procedure in the dermatology office removing the BCC including a measured amount of normal skin around the tumor.
- ED&C: a treatment performed in the dermatology office involving scraping away the tumor using electricity to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
- Mohs surgery: a skin-sparing surgical procedure performed in office that involves on-site examination of edges of tissue removed to ensure tumor clearance same day, often used for high-risk tumor subtypes or locations.
- Medicated cream or ointment: imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil may be used alone or in combination with ED&C to treat BCC in certain cases.
- Oral medication: on extremely rare occasion a BCC may spread to other parts of the body, and medications like vismodegib or sonidegib may be used to treat the disease at this stage.
Nearly every basal cell carcinoma can be cured, especially if found and treated early. Often, the earlier a basal cell carcinoma is treated, the less invasive the treatment and more cosmetically acceptable the final result. It is possible for BCC to recur at the site of previous treatment, so it is important to continue to follow up regularly with your dermatologist if you have a history of this disease. It is important to prevent further damage from sun exposure, which can increase your chance further of getting another BCC or other skin cancer.
If you are interested in more information on basal cell carcinoma treatment in Colorado Springs or Monument, CO, or in setting up a skin cancer screening, contact the experts at Summit Dermatology today.