Basal Cell Carcinoma Facts
Basal Cell Carcinoma or BCC is one of a group of Non Melanoma Skin Cancer types which affect the lower cells of the Epidermis, the uppermost layer of our skin. Of all types of skin cancers it is by far the most common, accounting for around 75% of all types of skin cancers Worldwide. Thankfully the outlook for sufferers of Non Melanoma Skin Cancers is usually very good and there is only a small risk that the cancer will spread to other parts of the body, a process known as Metastasis. It is estimated that less than 0.5% of Basal Cell Carcinoma patients will experience Metastasis and approximately 90% of patients will be completely cured. Treatment options for Basal Cell Carcinoma include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
The leading cause of all skin cancers is exposure to sunlight. Sunlight contains Ultra Violet Light, overexposure to which can seriously damage the skin. It follows that for health reasons all people should limit their exposure to strong sunlight, however there are additional risk factors which are important. Those people who are more likely to suffer from the effects of sun exposure include people with fair skin which does not tan easily, red or blond hair, freckles or a large number of moles. This high risk group should always wear an appropriate level of sunscreen and never use sun beds or tanning salons. There is also evidence that a tendency to develop Basal Cell Skin Cancer and other skin cancers can also be inherited.
Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma appear as either a mole like lesion or tumor on the skin or a discolored patch of skin that does not heal. BCC tumors usually appear as an off-white colored bump with a waxy texture, whilst a discolored patch of skin will be flat and scaly and pinkish brown in color. BCC’s can grow up to 6 inches in size if left untreated and can develop on any part of the body, although they are usually found on areas of skin which are regularly exposed to the Sun. BCC tumors are more commonly found on face, ears and neck whilst discolored patches of skin tend to appear most frequently of the chest or back. They are most commonly painless conditions but they may sometimes itch or become a sore area of skin which occasionally bleeds.
If your Doctor suspects that you may be suffering from a form of skin cancer he will usually refer you to a dermatologist for further diagnosis and treatment. Your dermatologist will give you a physical examination to confirm the prognosis and will usually take a biopsy from the affected area for further examination under a microscope. Sometimes this initial removal of the tumor for biopsy will be enough to eliminate the BCC completely. If your biopsy confrms the cancer to be BCC and not the less common Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which is more invasive, this may be the end of your treatment. However if you need further treatment there are a number of procedures available to treat Basal Cell Skin Cancer.
- Surgical Excision
This is where a surgeon will cut out and completely remove both the BCC and a small amount of the healthy surrounding tissue to ensure that all traces of the disease have been removed.
Cryotherapy is sometimes used for small BCC tumors. The tumor is frozen by applying Liquid Nitrogen which forms a scab. This will fall off in about a month, removing the cancer.
- Moh’s Micrographic Surgery
Moh’s Surgery is a procedure used when the BCC is in a place where it is important that a minimum of skin is actually removed by the treatment such as the face. A very small part of the tumor and surrounding tissue is removed over several visits, helping to reduce scarring.
This can be applied in cream form for BCC’s without the common sickness and hair loss side effects of more general treatment.
Radiotherapy uses low, safe, levels of radiation to destroy the cancer cells. It is usually used on larger areas affected by BCC’s such as when the disease appears as patches of discolored skin.
- Curettage and Electrocautery
Here the surgeon will use a small spoon shaped device to remove the tumor and an electric needle to remove the area surrounding the BCC.
- Imiquimod Cream
This encourages the body’s immune system to attack the BCC and can be used against small tumors.
- Photodynamic Therapy
Here a cream is applied which causes the skin to become highly sensitive to light. A very bright light is then shone upon the affected area, killing the BCC.
Here is a video oveview on basal carcinomas:-
By taking the correct precautions against over exposure to the sun most people will never suffer from Basal Cell Carcinoma but should you be unfortunate and develop the disease the wide variety of treatments available will, in the vast majority of cases, successfully treat the disease.
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