What is Basal Cell Skin Cancer?
Basal cell skin cancer, also known as basal cell carcinoma, begins in the basal cells of the epidermis. These cells produce new cells as old ones die off. This type of skin cancer often appears as a somewhat shiny, transparent bump, though it can also appear in other forms. Because skin cancer is generally caused by long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, basal cell skin cancer occurs most commonly in areas that are often exposed to the sun such as the head and neck.
Basal cell carcinoma presents as a slow-growing change in the skin, such as a sore or growth that will not heal. These lesions often have one or more of the following characteristics:
- A skin-coloured, pink, or pearly white bump.
- A black, blue, or brown lesion.
- A red, scaly, flat patch of skin.
- A white, waxy, scar-like lesion.
- A lesion that develops and bleeds consistently.
Basal Cell Skin Cancer Treatment Options
There is a selection of skin cancer treatments available today. The most common include:
Surgical Excision: Removal of the cancerous lesion and the surrounding area of healthy skin. The margin is examined under a microscope to ensure that there are no cancer cells.
Mohs Surgery: When appropriate, you will be assessed by Dr. Beach and deemed a candidate for this procedure. Mohs Surgery is performed in the hospital, with removal of the cancer by removing thin layers of skin. Dermatologist colleagues will examine each layer under a microscope until all abnormal cells are removed.
Topical Treatments: These may include prescription creams or ointments, and are usually considered for small and thin basal cell carcinomas.
Cryosurgery: Involves freezing cancer cells away with liquid nitrogen. This therapy may be performed on superficial skin cancers on the arms or legs or torso depending on its size and characteristics.
Curettage and Electrodesiccation: This treatment involves removing the topmost layer of the skin cancer with an instrument called a curette. The base of the cancer is then seared with an electric needle. This procedure may be performed on skin cancer at the arms or legs or torso depending on its size and characteristics.
Photodynamic Therapy: This treatment combines photosensitizing drugs and light to treat superficial skin cancer. During this treatment, a liquid drug is applied to the skin and will make the cancer cells sensitive to light. Then, a light that destroys the skin cancer cells will be shined on the area. Some insurance plans will cover a portion of this therapy while other patients choose to pay out-of-pocket for the process.
Who is a Good Candidate for Basal Cell Skin Cancer Treatment?
Individuals who have been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma can benefit from basal cell skin cancer treatment. If you are worried about an atypical lesion, contact our office today to learn how to schedule a skin exam. Your first step toward skin cancer treatment is through a consultation with Dr. Beach.
What to Expect After Basal Cell Skin Cancer Treatment?
Downtime will vary depending on the type of treatment that was performed; however, many individuals do not require a lengthy recovery. Once no further cancer cells are detected in the site of the lesion, no further treatment is required. However, take the proper steps to protect your skin from the sun. These steps include:
- Avoid the sun at peak hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m.). Seek shade when outdoors (e.g. awning, umbrella).
- Wear sunscreen year-round.
- Protect exposed sites from the sun by wearing sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses when outdoors.
- Wear protective clothing when in the sun known as UPF 50+ clothing (UV Protective Fabric of sufficient rating 50+).
- Avoid using tanning beds.