Basal cell carcinomas are growths or lesions that appear on the skin surface in varying forms, including red patches of skin, pink growths, open sores and shiny bumps. Basal cell carcinomas are commonly caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Basal cell carcinomas are rarely life-threatening, though their appearance can be highly unsightly.
What are the symptoms?
One common symptom of a basal cell carcinoma is a wound or sore that will not heal. Typically, the wound or sore may bleed or ooze and remain unhealed for an abnormal length of time before eventually healing. It will then reopen and start to ooze or bleed. This process can repeat itself several times.
Basal cell carcinomas present themselves as reddish areas of skin on the parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, including the face, neck, arms and legs. Itching is an occasional side effect.
Basal cell carcinomas can also appear as a scar, pink growths, or as shiny bumps that appear red, pink or white. These shiny bumps are often mistaken for moles.
Who gets it?
Almost three million people each year are diagnosed with basal cell carcinomas. Basal cell carcinomas appear most frequently in people whose lifestyles expose them to unsafe levels of UV rays. Though the average age of basal cell carcinoma patients is declining, it is still most frequent in people over age 40. People with fair skin, blond or red hair are also more susceptible as are people with blue, green or grey eyes. Men are also at higher risk.
A biopsy is often used to confirm a diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma. Once confirmed, basal cell carcinomas can be treated through:
Mohs micrographic surgery – Uses local anesthesia to remove tumors. Advantages of Mohs surgery include its ability to spare healthy tissue and a high cure rate of approximately 90 percent.
Excisional surgery – Unlike Mohs surgery, this procedure calls for the removal of small areas of surrounding healthy tissue as a preventive measure. Cure rates average about 90 percent.
Electrodessication and curettage – Also uses local surgery. Here, the growth is scraped off and cauterized to destroy any remaining tumor cells and to stop bleeding. Usually not suitable for advanced cases or for growths in hard-to-reach areas.
X–ray – Over the course of several weeks, beams are aimed precisely at the tumor. This option has the risk of radiation exposure.
Cryosurgery – Destroys tumors through freezing with liquid nitrogen.
Topical ointments – There are also ointments available such as Imiquimod and 5-Fluorourcil – ask your Forefront Dermatology physician if these are a viable option for you.