Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer diagnosed in the United States. Under a microscope, these cells resemble the cells in the deepest layer of the epidermis – also known as the basal layer. BCCs usually develop on areas that are regularly exposed to the sun, especially the head, face, and neck. This type of cancer generally grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Treatment is necessary because BCCs can grow large and deep, destroying surrounding skin, tissue, and bone. While BCCs are almost always treatable, early detection is key. People who have had one BCC are at risk for developing others over the years, either in the same area or elsewhere on the sun exposed surfaces of the body. It is important to regularly examine your own skin for signs of skin cancer and to see your dermatologist at least yearly.
Treatment for BCC is generally easy when it is caught early. Your doctor will perform a small biopsy to get a sample of the cells to confirm the diagnosis. Once confirmed, treatment can almost always be performed on an outpatient basis in the physician’s office. Common treatment options include:
Mohs Micrographic Surgery
A fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon removes thin layers of tissue and examines the tissue under a microscope until the layers contain no further cancer. This treatment has the highest cure rate and removes the least amount of tissue.
Curettage and Electrodesiccation
Small lesions can often be scraped off with an instrument called a curette, and then desiccated (burned) with an electrocautery device under local anesthetic.
The entire growth along with a safety margin of normal tissue is removed. The skin around the surgical site is closed with stitches.
Various creams can be considered in some cases.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays (such as x-rays) or particles (such as photons, electrons, or protons) to kill cancer cells.