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What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) develops in the basal cells, skin cells of the lowest layer in the epidermis. BCC is the most common cancer, affecting more than one million people every year in the U.S. About 80% of all skin cancers are BCC, and it can take several forms:
- Shiny translucent or pearly nodule
- Sore that continuously heals and reopens
- Slightly-elevated pink growth
- Irritated patches of skin with a reddish color
- Waxy scar
Basal cell carcinoma typically appears on areas of the skin that are frequently exposed to the sun:
- Upper trunk
Basal cell carcinoma tends to grow slowly and may take years to grow to ½ inch in size. We encourage routine screenings, especially if you notice any strange moles or sores that don’t heal. Skin cancer screenings can help with early diagnosis and treatment, which can prevent this type of tumor from metastasizing or causing extensive damage to surrounding tissue.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Treatment
To diagnose basal cell carcinoma, we will do a biopsy of the suspicious growth. This involves removing a small piece of the tissue and sending it for microscopic analysis. The skin will heal over the area.
If the pathologist discovers basal cell carcinoma during the biopsy, we would need to remove the tumor surgically. Surgery for basal cell carcinoma involves the complete removal of the tumor, which will often be a much larger area than what is visible. The growth that you see is often just the tip of the iceberg, with the basal cell tumor being much larger beneath the surface.
It is important that we completely remove every trace of the tumor because it is a dangerous cancer that has caused many people to lose parts of the body, and some people have even lost their lives.
Basal Cell Carcinoma FAQ
Basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads, but the tumor can grow to be disfiguring and life-threatening if it is left untreated. If basal cell carcinoma is not removed, it can grow wide and deep into the skin, destroying skin, bone, and other tissue.
Basal cell carcinoma is not often malignant. Most people develop the benign form of basal cell carcinoma in areas of skin often exposed to sunlight.
Basal cell carcinoma grows very slowly. Many people don’t even notice them as new growths because of how gradually they enlarge. The growth rate varies for each tumor, and some of them may grow much faster: about one centimeter in a year.
In about 40% of the cases where the lesion is removed, basal cell carcinoma recurs in the same spot.