What Is Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, with approximately 80% of skin cancers developing from basal cells. The epidermis has three types of cells. The cells in the bottom layer of the epidermis are the basal cells.
Basal cells consistently divide to form new cells. These replace squamous cells, pushing old cells towards the skin’s surface, where they die and slough off. Cancers that start in this bottom/basal layer of skin cells are called basal cell carcinoma.
Basal cell carcinoma is usually triggered by damage from ultraviolet radiation. This is most commonly from either exposure to the sun or tanning beds. UV radiation can damage basal cells, causing them to change and grow uncontrollably.
Basal cell carcinoma can look different from person to person. It may present as an open sore, scaly patch, shiny bump, a red irritated patch, pink growth, waxy scar-like growth, or a growth that dips in the center. They can sometimes ooze, crust, or bleed
As it can vary in how it looks, it is essential to get any new growths, lesions, lumps, bumps, or changes of your skin checked by your healthcare provider.
How Is Basal Cell Cancer Of The Head And Neck Diagnosed
Diagnosis is made by clinical exam and a biopsy. Basal cell cancers are staged by size and extent of growth. These cancers rarely metastasize to lymph nodes or other organs, but they can grow quite large and invade small nerves and local structures.
Biopsy can help determine if the basal cell cancer is a low-risk tumor or a high-risk tumor that requires more aggressive treatment. Low-risk tumors are often nodular and do not have nerve involvement. High-risk tumors in the head and neck are those that involve the central face, nose and eye area, as well as those tumors that are greater than or equal to 10 millimeters on the cheeks, scalp and neck tumors that are recurrent or arising from previously radiated tissue and tumors arising in patients who are immunosuppressed. An aggressive growth pattern on the pathology evaluation and perineural invasion are also features of high-risk basal cell cancers.
What Skin Cancer Is Most Treatable
The most common skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are nonmelanomas and rarely life threatening. They grow slowly, seldom spread beyond the skin, are easily found, and usually are cured. Basal cell carcinoma, which accounts for nearly 3 out of 4 skin cancers, is the slowest growing.
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How Does Skin Cancer Affect Daily Life
From being scared of the sun, to being overwhelmed with information, options, and emotions, it may feel like you are truly getting to know your body all over again. You will likely also begin to establish a support network of friends and family members or caregivers as part of your treatment plan.
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Recurrent Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinomas are the most common type of skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. These cancers develop within the basal cell layer of the skin, in the lowest part of the epidermis.
Patients who have had basal cell carcinoma once have an increased risk of developing a recurrent basal cell cancer. Basal cell cancers may recur in the same location that the original cancer was found or elsewhere in the body. As many as 50 percent of cancer patients are estimated to experience basal cell carcinoma recurrence within five years of the first diagnosis.
Basal cell carcinomas typically grow slowly, and it is rare for them to metastasize or spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body. But early detection and treatment are important.
After completing treatment for basal cell carcinoma, it is important to perform regular self-examinations of the skin to look for new symptoms, such as unusual growths or changes in the size, shape or color of an existing spot. Skin cancers typically develop in areas of the body that are exposed to the sun, but they may also develop in areas with no sun exposure. Tell your oncologist or dermatologist about any new symptoms or suspicious changes you may have noticed.
- Have a history of eczema or dry skin
- Have been exposed to high doses of UV light
- Had original carcinomas several layers deep in the skin
- Had original carcinomas larger than 2 centimeters
Questions To Ask The Doctor
- Do you know the stage of the cancer?
- If not, how and when will you find out the stage of the cancer?
- Would you explain to me what the stage means in my case?
- What will happen next?
There are many ways to treat skin cancer. The main types of treatment are:
Most basal cell and squamous cell cancers can be cured with surgery or other types of treatments that affect only the spot on the skin.
The treatment plan thats best for you will depend on:
- The stage and grade of the cancer
- The chance that a type of treatment will cure the cancer or help in some way
- Your age and overall health
- Your feelings about the treatment and the side effects that come with it
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When Should I Call My Doctor
You should have a skin examination by a doctor if you have any of the following:
- A personal history of skin cancer or atypical moles .
- A family history of skin cancer.
- A history of intense sun exposure as a young person and painful or blistering sunburns.
- New or numerous large moles.
- A mole that changes in size, color or shape.
- Any mole that itches, bleeds or is tender.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Receiving a diagnosis of melanoma can be scary. Watch your skin and moles for any changes and seeing your doctor regularly for skin examinations, especially if youre fair-skinned, will give you the best chances for catching melanoma early when its most treatable.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/21/2021.
Why Is Melanoma So Deadly
While Melanoma is the least common of the three types of skin cancer, thats not to say it is uncommon. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, over 192,000 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year in the United States. Of these cases, an estimated 4,740 men and 2,490 women will die from the disease.
What makes melanoma so deadly? Here are a few reasons why its a particularly deadly skin cancer:
- Its More Likely to SpreadUnlike other types of skin cancer, melanoma can spread quickly to the lymph nodes. For stage 4 melanoma, the survival rate is around 15-20 percent.
- Lack of Sun ProtectionOne of the main culprits of melanoma is DNA damage caused by UV radiation. Applying a daily moisturizer with SPF to your face and wearing sun protective clothing can significantly reduce your risk of melanoma and other types of skin cancers.
- Most People Dont Pay AttentionThough melanoma is highly treatable in its early stages, most of us simply dont pay close enough attention to our skin. This is why its incredibly important to get annual skin screenings and to recognize the early warning signs of melanoma.
Melanoma isnt to be messed around with. Guys have a higher risk of developing skin cancer compared to women, and this includes melanoma. If you have a suspicious-looking mole, dont wait to get it checked out by a dermatologist.
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What Is The Staging For Skin Cancer
There is no specific staging system for basal cell carcinoma. If the tumor is wider than 2 cm , it is probably a more serious tumor. Basal cell carcinomas of the ears, nose, and eyelid may also be of more concern, regardless of the size.
There is a staging system for squamous cell carcinoma. Large tumors that are thicker than 2 mm, invade the nerve structures of the skin, occur on the ear, and have certain worrisome characteristics under the microscope are of more concern. If the tumor metastasizes to a site at some distance from the primary tumor, the cancer is likely to be a dangerous tumor.
Prognosis Of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Treatment of basal cell carcinoma is nearly always successful, and the cancer is rarely fatal. However, almost 25% of people with a history of basal cell carcinoma develop a new basal cell cancer within 5 years of the first one. Thus, anyone with one basal cell carcinoma should have a yearly skin examination.
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How Dangerous Is Each Type Of Skin Cancer
Although there are several types of skin cancers, the three most common forms are squamous cell carcinoma , basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. SCC and BCC are commonly referred to as nonmelanoma skin cancers and make up the vast majority of skin cancer diagnoses.
According to a 2015 study published in JAMA Dermatology, its believed that over three million people in the United States are diagnosed annually with nonmelanoma skin cancers
Below, well break down the three main types of skin cancers and discuss how deadly each type is:
Basal Cell Carcinoma Overview
Basal cell carcinoma, also called epithelioma, is the uncontrolled growth of the skins basal cells. These are the cells that line the deepest layer of the epidermis, the skins outermost layer. This type of cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
It is mainly caused by repeated long-term exposure to sunlight. Light-skinned people who spent a lot of time in the sun as children, or who spend time in tanning booths, are especially susceptible. X-ray treatments for acne and exposure to industrial pollutants such as arsenic and hydrocarbons also increase the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer in the United States, with nearly 3 million cases diagnosed each year.
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What Foods Fight Skin Cancer
Carrots and leafy greens
Carrots and leafy greens like kale and spinach are great beta carotene-packed additions to your meals, even breakfast smoothies. In particular, leafy greens are high in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These have been found to protect against wrinkling, sun damage, and even skin cancer.
How Can You Tell If A Spot Is Skin Cancer
Redness or new swelling beyond the border of a mole. Color that spreads from the border of a spot into surrounding skin. Itching, pain, or tenderness in an area that doesnt go away or goes away then comes back. Changes in the surface of a mole: oozing, scaliness, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump.
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How Serious Is Basal Cell Skin Cancer
Doru Paul, MD, is triple board-certified in medical oncology, hematology, and internal medicine. He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and attending physician in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Basal cell skin cancer, also called basal cell carcinoma, is usually very curable, but it can cause disfigurement and complications if it’s not treated. In the majority of cases, basal cell carcinoma is very treatable.
It is unusual for basal cell carcinoma to cause death. Approximately 2,000 people in the U.S. die each year from basal and squamous skin cancers. In most cases, people who die from these types of skin cancer tend to be older, immunosuppressed, or have been diagnosed at a very late stage.
Get To Know Your Skin And Check It Regularly
Look out for changes such as:
- A mole that changes shape, color, size, bleeds, or develops an irregular border
- A new spot on the skin that changes in size, shape, or color
- Sores that don’t heal
- New bumps, lumps, or spots that don’t go away
- Shiny, waxy, or scar type lesions
- New dark patches of skin that have appeared
- Rough, red, scaly, skin patches
If you notice any changes to your skin, seek advice from a medical professional. Basal cell carcinoma is very treatable when caught early.
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The Clinical Course Of Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Although most patients who develop SCCs have localized disease that can be cured, tumor recurrence, tumor spread to other parts of the body, and death occasionally occurs.
Larger tumors may cause disfigurement as they may penetrate into the underlying tissues causing nerve or muscle damage. SCCs that have spread into the underlying tissue have been resistant to previous therapy or have reoccurred are considered advanced SCCs.
Can Biopsy Remove Basal Cell Carcinoma
For some basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, a biopsy can remove enough of the tumor to eliminate the cancer. Most biopsies can be done right in the doctors office using local anesthesia. Before the biopsy, the doctor or nurse will clean your skin. They may use a pen to mark the area that will be removed.
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More Information About Basal Cell Carcinoma
The following are some English-language resources that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.
See the following sites for comprehensive information about basal cell carcinoma, including detection, prevention, treatment options, and other resources:
How Is Melanoma Treated
Your melanoma treatment will depend on the stage of the melanoma and your general health.
Surgery is usually the main treatment for melanoma. The procedure involves cutting out the cancer and some of the normal skin surrounding it. The amount of healthy skin removed will depend on the size and location of the skin cancer. Typically, surgical excision of melanoma can be performed under local anesthesia in the dermatologist’s office. More advanced cases may require other types of treatment in addition to or instead of surgery.
Treatments for melanoma:
- Melanoma Surgery: In the early stages, surgery has a high probability of being able to cure your melanoma. Usually performed in an office, a dermatologist numbs the skin with a local anesthetic and removes the melanoma and margins .
- Lymphadenectomy: In cases where melanoma has spread, removal of the lymph nodes near the primary diagnosis site may be required. This can prevent the spread to other areas of your body.
- Metastasectomy: Metastasectomy is used to remove small melanoma bits from organs.
- Targeted cancer therapy: In this treatment option, drugs are used to attack specific cancer cells. This targeted approach goes after cancer cells, leaving healthy cells untouched.
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy includes treatments with high-energy rays to attack cancer cells and shrink tumors.
- Immunotherapy: immunotherapy stimulates your own immune system to help fight the cancer.
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Infiltrative Basal Cell Carcinoma Treatment
Due to the visually challenging element of this kind of skin cancer, the most recommended infiltrative basal cell carcinoma treatment method is Mohs surgery. This surgical procedure aims to remove unhealthy cells from the skin by cutting them out with a scalpel, allowing the healthy tissue to heal around the area. Depending on the patients circumstances, other non-melanoma skin cancer treatments include topical creams, chemotherapy, and IG-SRT, a radiotherapy treatment that helps avoid surgery but with similar results.
Basal Cell Carcinoma: What You Need To Know
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer in the world. One out of two people will have a BCC growth before age 65. Although BCC is rarely life threatening, it should be taken seriously. If left untreated, this cancer can be disfiguring, especially on the face.
The information in these pages will help you understand more about BCC: what it is, what causes it, how it is diagnosed and treated, and how you can prevent it.
What is basal cell carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer. It begins in the basal cells, the deepest part of the skins outermost layer. Basal cell carcinomas almost never spread beyond their original site to other parts of the body, especially when treated early.
What do basal cell carcinomas look and feel like?
As shown below, basal cell carcinomas vary widely, with a number of different appearances:
Open sores that dont heal
A round ulcer that looks as though a bite has been taken out of the middle
Red patches that have a sandpapery feel
Shiny bumps that are raised, hard, pearly pink or gray
An area of thickened skin
A bump with a rolled edge
A lesion with blood vessels that look like the spokes of a wheel
Basal cell carcinomas can occur anywhere on the body they may appear to sit on top of the skin, or burrow into it. Most lesions are painless. Sometimes they can feel itchy. They may bleed easily if caught on clothing or nicked during shaving.
What causes basal cell carcinoma?
How is basal cell carcinoma diagnosed?
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