Basal Cell Carcinoma: Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing Basal Cell Carcinoma
The most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States is Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC).
BCC is commonly found in the skin that is mostly exposed to the sun. This can be on the face, head, neck, back of hands or on the nose.
Also, BCC can form when using tanning beds, and form much earlier in life when being exposed to these conditions.
It is a slow growing skin cancer and rarely spreads to other parts if the body.
Treatment is important because BCC can grow wide and deep, destroying skin, tissue, and bone.
In order to diagnose any type of skin cancer, a dermatologist must perform a skin biopsy, that will then be sent to a laboratory for microscopic evaluation by a dermatopathologist.
This is a surgical procedure that your dermatologist often can perform in an office setting. It involves numbing the area to be treated and cutting out any remaining tumor plus some normal-looking skin around the tumor.
Like the skin biopsy, this removed skin is examined under the microscope. This may be done at a laboratory or by your dermatologist. The doctor who looks at the removed skin needs to see whether the normal-looking skin is free of cancer cells. If not, more skin will need to be removed. This is a common way to treat BCC.
Curettage and electrodessication:
This treatment consists of two steps. First, your dermatologist scrapes away the tumor. Then electricity is used to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
Named for the doctor who developed this surgery, Mohs (pronounced “moes”) is a specialized surgery used to remove some skin cancers. It offers the highest cure rate for difficult-to-treat basal cell cancers. Your dermatologist will tell you if Mohs is right for you.
If Mohs is recommended, this is what you can expect. The surgeon will cut out the tumor plus a very small amount of normal-looking skin surrounding the tumor. While you wait, the Mohs surgeon or dermatopathologist uses a microscope to look at what was removed. The surgeon is looking for cancer cells.
If necessary, the Mohs surgeon will continue to remove a very small amount of skin and look at it under the microscope. This continues until the surgeon no longer sees cancer cells.
This treatment uses liquid nitrogen to freeze cancer cells, causing the cells to die.
This treatment usually is reserved for BCCs that cannot be cut out, or when surgery may not be the best choice. A patient may need 15 to 30 radiation treatments.
Creams that contain a drug, such as imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil, can be used to treat early BCC. A patient applies the medicated cream at home as directed by his or her dermatologist.
Nearly every basal cell cancer can be cured, especially when the cancer is found early and treated.
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