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Basal cell carcinoma (Skin Cancer): Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Posted on- Oct 15, 2015
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Basal cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer that develops in the basal cells- a kind of cell that is responsible for making new skin cells when the old ones die. The cancer develops on the parts of the skin that receive excess amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. It is unlikely for Basal cell carcinoma to spread to other parts of your body but can move to nearby bone or other tissue under your skin.

Basal cell carcinoma looks like a waxy bump, but can take different forms. It is commonly seen on face and neck.

Symptoms related to Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinomas normally appear on sun-exposed parts of the body, such as head and neck. Less common appearance is on the trunk and legs. But basal cell carcinomas can occur on parts of the body that are less exposed to sunlight. A basal cell cancer may appear as:

  • A waxy bump with visible blood vessels, on your face, ears or neck. The bump may develop a crust. In people with dark complexion, basal cell cancer may appear brown or black.
  • A brown or flesh-colored patch on your back or chest. These patches may grow fairly big over a period.
  • A rare white scar, which may be easily overlooked, but can be a sign of disfiguring cancer called morpheaform basal cell carcinoma.

Tests and diagnosis of Basal cell carcinoma

In order to diagnose basal cell carcinoma, your skin specialist may:
  • Examine your skin: Your doctor will look at the suspected area on the skin. He/she will probably examine the rest of your body for other odd areas of skin.
  • Skin biopsy: Your doctor will remove a sample of the unusual skin and send it to a lab, where it will be tested for cancer cells. Biopsy is beneficial in confirming the skin cancer and its type.

Treatment options for Basal cell carcinoma

The aim of the treatment is to get rid of the cancer while leaving as small a scar as possible. Your skin specialist will help you choose the best available option while taking into account the chance of scarring, as well as your overall health.
  • Electrodessication and curettage (ED&C): The procedure involves removing the surface of the skin cancer with curette and then heating the base of the cancer with an electric needle. This treatment is commonly used for small cancers.
  • Surgical excision: In this process, your skin doctor removes cancerous tissue and a surrounding margin of healthy skin. Sometimes a wide cut may be made to remove normal skin around the cancer. This treatment option befits a large basal cell carcinoma.
  • Freezing: The process involves killing cancerous cells by freezing them with liquid nitrogen. This procedure is useful for cancers that are thin in nature and don't get deep into the skin.
  • Topical treatments: Basal cell carcinoma that doesn’t spread very far may be treated with creams or ointments.
  • Medication: Basal cell carcinoma that spreads to other areas of the body may be treated with vismodegib. This medicine blocks signals that allow basal cell carcinomas to continue growing.

After you've been treated for basal cell carcinoma, you’ll need to check for new growths, keep out of direct sunlight and cover up as much as possible.