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Basal Cell Carcinoma Treatment

Options for Treating Basal Cell Carcinoma

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Updated May 15, 2014

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. It typically spreads locally and does not metastisize. Basal cell carcinoma grows very slowly over a period of years, then can expand rapidly. It is diagnosed by biopsy, and treatment options depend on information gleaned from the biopsy. Find out more about risk factors for basal cell carcinoma.

Pictures of Basal Cell Carcinoma
The following pictures show various basal cell carcinoma lesions:

Treating Basal Cell Carcinoma with Electrodessication and Curettage
Electrodessication and curettage involves destroying the tumor with an electrocautery device then scraping the area with a curette. Many times the diseased tissue can be differentiated from the normal tissue by the texture felt while scraping. This process is repeated several times to ensure complete removal of the tumor. This procedure is useful for small tumors less than 6 mm because it tends to leave a scar.

Treating Basal Cell Carcinoma with Simple Excision
This procedure involves surgical excision of the lesion including a margin of normal skin. This method is preferred for larger lesions (>2cm) on the cheek, forehead, trunk, and legs. The advantage of this treatment is that it is quick and inexpensive. However, the difference between normal and cancerous tissue must be judged with the naked eye.

Treating Basal Cell Carcinoma with Mohs' Micrographic Surgery
Mohs' micrographic surgery is a special type skin surgery that must be performed by an experienced Mohs' surgeon. It involves excision of the tumor and immediate examination of the tissue under the microscope to determine margins. If any residual tumor is left, it can be mapped out and excised immediately. The process of excision and examination of margins may have to be repeated several times. The advantage of this technique is that it is usually definitive and has been reported to have a lower recurrence rate than other treatment options. The disadvantage is the time and expense involved.

Treating Basal Cell Carcinoma with Radiation Therapy
This procedure involves a course of radiation therapy to the tumor area. It is used for some primary tumors in patients who are not fit for surgery or have inoperable tumors. It may also be used where tumors are difficult to excise or where it is important to preserve surrounding tissue such as the lip. Its use is declining.

Treating Basal Cell Carcinoma with Cryotherapy
Cryotherapy involves destroying the tissue by freezing it with liquid nitrogen. This may be effective for small, well-defined superficial tumors. It is also used effectively for the treatment of actinic keratosis, a premalignant condition. This procedure is inexpensive and time-efficient but can only be used in a small number of cases.

Prevention of Basal Cell Carcinoma

  • Avoid UVB radiation from sun exposure especially midday sun
  • Use protective clothing
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. This is especially important for children.
  • Have suspicious lesions checked out - If you have a question, get it checked out. Treating premalignant lesions prevents their transformation to potentially metastatic cancers.
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