Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer that affects patients in the US, and basal cell carcinoma occurs the most often. While relatively common, basal cell carcinoma is also highly treatable, especially when it can be diagnosed early. If you notice signs of basal cell carcinoma, it is important to schedule an appointment with Dr. Damstetter at Reserve Dermatology in Glenview, Illinois as soon as possible.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. This skin cancer is caused by uncontrolled and abnormal growth in the basal cells, or the outermost skin cells. However, compared to other types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinomas grow slowly and do not cause extensive damage if they are diagnosed and treated early.
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Basal cell carcinoma is typically caused by damage from UV rays. This is a result of excess sun exposure or indoor tanning over time. In less common cases, basal cell carcinoma may be caused by radiation therapy, exposure to toxins such as arsenic, or genetic diseases.
Several risk factors may increase your likelihood of developing basal cell carcinoma. These include:
- Frequent sun exposure over time
- Personal or family history of skin cancer
- Immune-suppressing drugs
- Older age, especially age 40+
- Fair skin which freckles or burns easily
- Red or blond hair and/or light colored eyes
- Living in a sunny or high-altitude climate
A basal cell carcinoma is typically a bump on the skin or a lesion similar to a sore that does not heal. They are most common on areas of the skin which receive the most sun exposure over time, such as the face, scalp, neck, chest, forearms, or hands. Basal cell carcinomas are typically small, shiny bumps on the skin. They are typically the same color as the surrounding skin, but may appear pearly white or pink on white skin tones or glossy brown or black on darker skin tones. The bump may also appear waxy or similar to scar tissue. In other cases, basal cell carcinoma may appear as a flat scaly patch of skin, typically with a raised edge. These growths tend to become relatively large.
To diagnose basal cell carcinoma, Dr. Damstetter will perform a biopsy. This involves removing a small among of skin from the lesion or growth so it can be testing in a lab.
Once a diagnosis is made, the cancerous cells must be removed completely. There are several methods of removing the basal cell carcinoma cells, each of which can be performed after using a local anesthetic to maintain your comfort.
- Surgical excision involves removing the lesion as well as a small border of healthy skin cells using a scalpel or similar surgical tool.
- Mohs surgery is a procedure in which the cancer cells are removed layer by layer to ensure that all abnormal cells are removed without removing too much healthy skin. This minimizes scarring while also reducing the chance that the cancer will recur.
- Curettage and electrodessication (C and E) involves scraping the surface of the skin before directing electricity to the remaining cancer cells.
- Cryosurgery, which involves freezing the cancer cells using liquid nitrogen.
- Radiation therapy, which is only necessary in more advanced basal cell carcinoma, cases with a higher risk of cancer returning, or when surgery is not possible.
To learn more about basal cell carcinoma, schedule an appointment with Dr. Damstetter. Call Reserve Dermatology or contact us online.