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Basal Cell Carcinoma - Symptoms & Treatment

A basal cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer. It is also known as BCC or rodent ulcer. BCC typically affects adults of fair complexion who have had a lot of sun exposure, or repeated episodes of sunburn. Although more common in the elderly, sun-loving New Zealanders frequently develop them in their early 40s and sometimes younger. Skin cancer is divided into two major groups: non-melanoma and melanoma. Risk is increased for individuals with a family history of the disease and a high cumulative exposure to UV light via sunlight or, in the past, carcinogenic chemicals especially arsenic. People who do not tan easily, such as those with fair skin, light hair, and blue, green, or gray eyes, are at highest risk. Although the exact etiology of BCC is unknown, a well-established relationship exists between BCC and the pilosebaceous unit, as tumors are most often discovered on hair-bearing areas. It is often located in the face and on the neck. Basal cell carcinoma is not one of the most dangerous cancers but it must still be treated to avoid it spreading.

Basal cell carcinoma can usually be diagnosed with a simple biopsy and is fairly easy to treat when detected early. The most common type of basal cell carcinoma is nodular basal cell carcinoma, a flesh-colored (cream to pink), round or oval translucent nodule with overlying small blood vessels and a pearly-appearing rolled border. Until recent years, basal cell carcinomas most commonly affected older people, particularly men who had worked outdoors. However, healthcare professionals are seeing more women develop these lesions, and both men and women are developing them at an earlier age. Sometimes the skin will heal after the biopsy because it grows over the cancer. This does not mean the cancer is gone, it means the cancer is now covered with a blanket of skin. Basal cell carcinoma grows by direct extension and appears to rely on the surrounding supportive tissue to grow. Like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma is not among the most dangerous cancers but it can become dangerous if it is not treated in time.

Causes of Basal cell carcinoma

The common causes and risk factor's of Basal cell carcinoma include the following:

  • Overexposure to the sun and its ultraviolet (UV) rays .
  • Using tanning beds or sunlamps, which are artificial sources of UV rays.
  • Fair-skinned individuals are more prone to skin cancer than darker persons, since skin pigment protects the skin.
  • Certain chemicals (such as arsenic, coal tar, creosote).
  • History of exposure to arsenic, coal, industrial tar, or paraffin.
  • Radioactive substances (such as radium).
  • Immunosuppression has been associated with a modest increase in the risk of BCC. Therefore, recipients of organ or stem cell transplants have a higher lifetime risk of developing BCC.
  • Scarred or previously damaged skin, especially radiation damage.
  • Rare genetic diseases such as xeroderma pigmentosa, nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome, and albinism.

Symptoms of Basal cell carcinoma

Some symptoms related to Basal cell carcinoma are as follows:

  • An open sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts and remains open for three or more weeks.
  • Smooth, shiny bump that may look like a mole or cyst.
  • Sores that grow bigger, or turn into tumours.
  • Scarlike patch of skin, especially on the face, that is firm to the touch.
  • A scar-like area that is white, yellow, or waxy, and often has poorly defined borders. The skin itself appears shiny and tight.
  • Brown or black streak underneath a nail.
  • Irregular blood vessels in or around the spot.

Treatment of Basal cell carcinoma

Here is list of the methods for treating Basal cell carcinoma:

  • Most basal cell carcinomas are removed surgically.
  • Curettage and electrodessication is highly effective for small, well-defined, nonaggressive tumors. With this procedure, the doctor uses a semi-sharp instrument with spoon-shaped edge (called a curette) to scrape away tumor tissue.
  • Cryosurgery: Some doctors trained in this technique achieve good results by freezing basal cell carcinomas.
  • Excision: The lesion is cut out and the skin stitched up. This is the most appropriate treatment for nodular, infiltrative and morphoeic BCCs. Very large lesions may require a flap or graft to repair the defect after excision.
  • Radiation therapy can be useful for tumors that have spread into the lymph nodes. It may also be used for patients whose medical condition will not allow him or her to under go surgery.


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