What Are the Basics of Basal Cell Carcinoma?

What is basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinoma is a kind of skin cancer. It grows in basal cells, a part of your skin that produce new skin cells.

At the beginning, it looks like small bumps, and it often appears on your face and neck because the tumor is related to sunlight. However, you may also find it on other areas of you body, such as legs and arms.

Timely treatments can help cure the cancer.


What are the symptoms of basal cell carcinoma?

When basal cell carcinoma occurs, changes in your skin can appear. You can find a skin growth or a sore.

Here are some symptoms:

  • A small pearly bump
    The bump may look like a skin-colored mole, and tiny blood vessels can be visible, too. Sometimes the bump may be dark.
  • A red patch
    The patch may look like eczema. It can gradually grow bigger.
  • A white, waxy, and hard skin lesion.
    This may look like a scar and tends to be ignored.

Basal cell carcinoma often appears on parts of the skin that are exposed to the sun, like the face and the neck. Sometimes it can occur in other parts of your body.

What are the causes of basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinoma happens when the DNA of basal cells goes wrong.

Basal cells are at the bottom of the outermost layer of the skin, and they produce new skin cells when old ones die.

Actually, the course is controlled by the DNA of basal cells. When there is damage to DNA, basal cells can multiply fast and keep growing. The cells will lead to a tumor in the end.

Often, the damage to DNA is caused by ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet (UV) can be found in sunlight and tanning lamps. However, other exact factors that also trigger the damage are not clear.


How do doctors diagnose basal cell carcinoma?

Your doctor may first give you a general physical exam. He or she will ask you questions to know your symptoms and your medical history.

These questions include:

  • Did you spend a lot of time under the sun?
  • When did you find the bump or lesion?
  • Is the bump painful?
  • Has anyone from your family also experienced a skin cancer?

Then your doctor may get a sample of your skin growth and send it to a lab. The test can tell whether it is a cancer.

Besides, your doctor will also examine other parts of your skin.

How to prevent basal cell carcinoma?

Since the cancer is often caused by ultraviolet, you should avoid or limit being exposed to the sun:

  • Avoid going out in the heat of the day
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher
  • Wear protective clothing, such as sunglasses and a cap

Besides, tanning lamps also contain ultraviolet. Beware!

Another recommendation for prevention is to pay close attention to your skin. Regular exams can help you find something abnormal.


What are the treatments for basal cell carcinoma?

Based on your condition, your doctor will help you with the treatment that suits you most.

Surgical treatments include:

  • Freezing
    Liquid nitrogen can freeze cancerous cells and kill them. When the cancer has not extended into the skin, this treatment is useful.
  • Cutting out the lesion
    Your doctor may cut out the affected lesion and the surrounding part of it.
  • Electrodesiccation and curettage (ED&C)
    This removes superficial basal cell carcinomas.
  • Mohs surgery
    In this surgery, your doctor removes the cancer layer by layer.

What’s more, medications can also be the treatments. Superficial basal cell carcinoma can be treated with ointments. Medications for advanced caners are also available.


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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.