What Are Basal And Squamous Cell Skin Cancers
Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common types of skin cancer. They start in the top layer of skin , and are often related to sun exposure.
Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer cells. To learn more about cancer and how it starts and spreads, see What Is Cancer?
What Is A Basal Cell
One of three main types of cells in the top layer of the skin, basal cells shed as new ones form. BCC most often occurs when DNA damage from exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or indoor tanning triggers changes in basal cells in the outermost layer of skin , resulting in uncontrolled growth.
More Pictures Of Basal Cell Carcinoma
While the above pictures show you some common ways that BCC can appear on the skin, this skin cancer can show up in other ways, as the following pictures illustrate.
Scaly patch with a spot of normal-looking skin in the center
On the trunk, BCC may look like a scaly patch with a spot of normal-looking skin in the center and a slightly raised border, as shown here.
Basal cell carcinoma can be lighter in some areas and darker in others
While BCC tends to be one color, it can be lighter in some areas and darker in others, as shown here.
Basal cell carcinoma can be brown in color
Most BCCs are red or pink however, this skin cancer can be brown, as shown here.
Basal cell carcinoma can look like a group of shiny bumps
BCC can look like a group of small, shiny bumps that feel smooth to the touch.
Basal cell carcinoma can look like a wart or a sore
The BCC on this patients lower eyelid looks like a wart* in one area and a sore** in another area.
If you see a spot or growth on your skin that looks like any of the above or one that is growing or changing in any way, see a board-certified dermatologist.
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Looking Out For Basal Cell Carcinoma
Sometimes basal cell carcinoma is overlooked because it doesnt “look like cancer.” It might appear as a small dome shaped skin growth or a shiny or slightly scaly pink or red patch. It might be skin colored and resemble a scar. It might be a small pink dot on your skin. It could look like a sore.
Regular skin checks are important. When you complete self-skin checks monthly, you notice if new spots or lesions appear. Some of the warning signs of BCC that should be checked by a dermatologist, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, are:
An open sore that doesnt heal or that starts to heal and then opens up again.
A skin bump that is pearly, waxy, or red and scaly.
A scar-like spot without having had an injury.
A spot that oozes or crusts.
A spot with irregular blood vessels around it.
A sore that has a depressed center.
As always, if you have a sore or spot that changes in appearance, color, size or texture, you should contact your dermatologist.
Where Do Skin Cancers Start
Most skin cancers start in the top layer of skin, called the epidermis. There are 3 main types of cells in this layer:
- Squamous cells: These are flat cells in the upper part of the epidermis, which are constantly shed as new ones form. When these cells grow out of control, they can develop into squamous cell skin cancer .
- Basal cells: These cells are in the lower part of the epidermis, called the basal cell layer. These cells constantly divide to form new cells to replace the squamous cells that wear off the skins surface. As these cells move up in the epidermis, they get flatter, eventually becoming squamous cells. Skin cancers that start in the basal cell layer are called basal cell skin cancers or basal cell carcinomas.
- Melanocytes: These cells make the brown pigment called melanin, which gives the skin its tan or brown color. Melanin acts as the bodys natural sunscreen, protecting the deeper layers of the skin from some of the harmful effects of the sun. Melanoma skin cancer starts in these cells.
The epidermis is separated from the deeper layers of skin by the basement membrane. When a skin cancer becomes more advanced, it generally grows through this barrier and into the deeper layers.
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What Causes Basal Cell Carcinoma
The commonest cause is exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or from sunbeds. BCCs can occur anywhere on the body, but are most common on areas that are exposed to the sun such as your face, head, neck and ears. It is also possible for a BCC to develop in a longstanding scar. BCCs are not infectious.
BCCs mainly affect fair skinned adults, but other skin types are also at risk. Those with the highest risk of developing a basal cell carcinoma are:
- People with pale skin who burn easily and rarely tan .
- Those who have had a lot of exposure to the sun, such as people with outdoor hobbies or outdoor workers, and people who have lived in sunny climates.
- People who have used sun beds or have regularly sunbathed.
- People who have previously had a basal cell carcinoma.
Risks Associated With Untreated Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. Its also the slowest growing of the common forms of skin cancer and the least likely to metastasize, meaning it rarely spreads to other parts of the body. However, basal cell carcinoma presents a risk for disfigurement if left untreated. Without proper intervention, basal cell carcinoma can grow and invade local structures. Additionally, these lesions may present a risk for ulceration , bleeding, and infection. The type of treatment available in the early stages is likely to be more effective, less invasive, and more cost-effective. The longer basal cell carcinoma goes untreated, the procedures necessary to remove it become more advanced, invasive, and costly.
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What Does Basal Cell Carcinoma Look Like
Basal cell carcinomalookbasal cell carcinomalikelooks like
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Basal cell carcinoma often occurs on the face and neck, where the skin is exposed to sunlight. These tumors are locally invasive and tend to burrow in but not metastasize to distant locations.
Also know, how serious is basal cell skin cancer? The Most Common Skin Cancer BCCs arise from abnormal, uncontrolled growth of basal cells. Because BCCs grow slowly, most are curable and cause minimal damage when caught and treated early. Understanding BCC causes, risk factors and warning signs can help you detect them early, when they are easiest to treat and cure.
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What Makes Yale Medicines Approach To Basal Cell Carcinoma Unique
Yale Medicine receives referrals from community dermatologists all over the country. We receive a very high volume of referrals, so regardless of how unusual the case may be, its likely weve seen it before, says Dr. Christensen. We work closely with a team of specialized skin pathologists in our dermatopathology lab who evaluate skin samples that could be cancerous or pre-cancerous. Then, our dermatologic surgeons use their expertise to safely remove these spots.
What Is The Outlook For People With Skin Cancer
Nearly all skin cancers can be cured if they are treated before they have a chance to spread. The earlier skin cancer is found and removed, the better your chance for a full recovery. Ninety percent of those with basal cell skin cancer are cured. It is important to continue following up with a dermatologist to make sure cancer does not return. If something seems wrong, call your doctor right away.
Most skin cancer deaths are from melanoma. If you are diagnosed with melanoma:
- The five-year survival rate if its detected before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99%.
- The five-year survival rate if it has spread to nearby lymph nodes is 66%.
- The five-year survival rate if it has spread to distant lymph nodes and other organs is 27%.
Leaving Squamous Cell Carcinoma Untreated
The third type of skin cancer we have to be cautious of in Australia is squamous cell carcinoma. This is potentially life threatening and is most dangerous when found on the face, lips, ears or neck. As it grows, there is the chance it may spread to the lymph nodes and internal organs, and while it isnt as fast growing as melanoma, it still requires treatment.
You may notice squamous cell carcinoma in the top layer of your skin and it will likely be red and scaly. Surgery is often used for removal, but if it has progressed significantly some reconstruction to the face may be needed. This is the second most common form of skin cancer, and can be quite painful to touch.
All skin cancer has the potential to be fatal, and regular checks and any necessary treatment is recommended. Melanoma is by far the most serious form of skin cancer, and if suspected you should seek an urgent skin check. Please contact My Skin Centre to book your appointment in the Perth region.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
Questions to ask your dermatologist may include:
- What type of skin cancer do I have?
- What stage is my skin cancer?
- What tests will I need?
- Whats the best treatment for my skin cancer?
- What are the side effects of that treatment?
- What are the potential complications of this cancer and the treatment for it?
- What outcome can I expect?
- Do I have an increased risk of additional skin cancers?
- How often should I be seen for follow-up checkups?
What Happens If Basal Cell Carcinoma Goes Untreated
If there is a silver lining associated with being diagnosed with BCC, it would be that it is one of only a few cancers that seldom metastasizes to other organs in the body and is rarely fatal. However, complications can occur if individuals do not seek prompt medical treatment. According to most dermatologists and oncologists with top-tier medical practices, such as skin cancer reconstructive surgery and facial reconstruction surgery, untreated BCC can give way to large tumors. The cancerous tissue can become deeply embedded under the skin and can cause damage to bones, all of which can result in disfigurement. If they grow too large, these tumors can put a strain on certain organs in the body, which can put ones life in danger.
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Basal Cell Carcinoma Early Stages
Basal cells are found within the skin and are responsible for producing new skin cells as old ones degenerate. Basal cell carcinoma starts with the appearance of slightly transparent bumps, but they may also show through other symptoms.
In the beginning, a basal cell carcinoma resembles a small bump, similar to a flesh-colored mole or a pimple. The abnormal growths can also look dark, shiny pink, or scaly red in some cases.
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The Importance Of Regular Skin Checks
Because basal cell carcinoma has an excellent prognosis when caught early and properly treated, its important to discuss any of these symptoms with a dermatologist or skin cancer specialist as soon as they appear. Experienced medical professionals can help determine whether the lesion is basal cell carcinoma or if the symptoms are caused by another skin condition.
Completing regular skin self-exams can make all the difference when it comes to catching skin cancer in its early stages. Most physicians recommend doing a skin self-exam once a month and making an annual appointment for a skin check by a dermatologist once a year. Heres how to complete a skin self-exam:
- Stand in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. You should also have a handheld mirror to look at hard to see areas, like the back of your thighs.
- Examine your face, ears, neck, chest and abdomen.
- Lift your arms to view your underarms and also look at your arms, hands, fingers and fingernails.
- Next, examine the front of your thighs, shins, feet, toes and toenails.
- Use the handheld mirror to check out the back of your thighs, shins and feet.
- Still using the handheld mirror, examine your buttocks, genitals, back and the back of your neck and ears.
- Finally, use the handheld mirror to view your scalp.
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What About Other Treatments That I Hear About
When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may wonder about these treatments.
Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.
Visit Us Dermatology Partners
Whether youre worried a spot youve noticed is cancerous or youre just ready for your annual professional skin exam, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team would love to hear from you. You can get started scheduling your visit by completing our online request form. Once we receive your scheduling request, one of our local team members will be in touch to finalize the details of your office visit.
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Four Reasons To Treat Basal Cell Carcinoma
Even when lesions from basal cell carcinoma on your skins surface dont appear to be changing, the cancer might still be growing. Some BCCs grow in irregular patterns under the skin, making the cancer seem smaller than it is. The cancer can affect tissue and bones. While major organs are rarely affected, muscle and nerve damage can occur, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
When not treated, the growth of the cancer can cause disfigurement because of internal damage. Treatment, which usually includes excision of the tumor, can be quite extensive when the cancer continues to grow unchecked. The longer you wait, the more damage and disfigurement the tumor can do and the more difficult it is to treat without causing cosmetic issues, according to Rex Amonette, M.D., the co-founder of The Skin Cancer Foundation.
When treated early, BCC is highly curable. Mohs surgery, a common treatment for BCC, has a cure rate of 99 percent. Excision, where the physician cuts out the growth, has a cure rate above 95 percent.
Most treatments for BCC are done as outpatient and often can be performed in your doctors office. Treatment does not usually involve extended time away from work or family.
How Is Skin Cancer Treated
Treatment depends upon the stage of cancer. Stages of skin cancer range from stage 0 to stage IV. The higher the number, the more cancer has spread.
Sometimes a biopsy alone can remove all the cancer tissue if the cancer is small and limited to your skins surface only. Other common skin cancer treatments, used alone or in combination, include:
Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze skin cancer. The dead cells slough off after treatment. Precancerous skin lesions, called actinic keratosis, and other small, early cancers limited to the skins top layer can be treated with this method.
This surgery involves removing the tumor and some surrounding healthy skin to be sure all cancer has been removed.
With this procedure, the visible, raised area of the tumor is removed first. Then your surgeon uses a scalpel to remove a thin layer of skin cancer cells. The layer is examined under a microscope immediately after removal. Additional layers of tissue continue to be removed, one layer at a time, until no more cancer cells are seen under the microscope.
Mohs surgery removes only diseased tissue, saving as much surrounding normal tissue as possible. Its most often used to treat basal cell and squamous cell cancers and near sensitive or cosmetically important areas, such as eyelids, ears, lips, forehead, scalp, fingers or genital area.
Curettage and electrodesiccation
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Risks Associated With Untreated Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. This type of cancer has a variable growth rate. Some squamous cell carcinomas grow slowly, while others can grow rapidly. Smaller squamous cell carcinomas have a lower risk of metastasis, however, if they are large, they are at higher risk for spreading to other organs, including the lymph nodes. In certain locations, such as the ear, lip, and temple, there is a higher risk of spread as well. As with all skin cancers, treatment in earlier stages is always recommended to prevent cancer from spreading. Squamous cell carcinomas can be life-threatening if left untreated.
According to Dr. Truong, We recommend patients keep a close eye on any changes to their skin color, texture, or sensation by completing self-exams at home every month or every other month. With squamous cell carcinoma, the first thing patients notice is red, rough, and scaly patches of skin. This type of skin cancer can be asymptomatic, but can also be painful to the touch. Some patients experience abnormal sensations in the areas . The feelings of pain and numbness may be the first sign that squamous cell carcinoma is spreading and impacting surrounding nerves, therefore it is important to let your dermatologist know if you are experiencing these symptoms.