There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. There are also less common types of skin cancer such as Merkel cell tumors. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. Fortunately, it is also the least dangerous form of skin cancer and usually does not spread to other parts of the body. It can, however, be disfiguring. The cancer can occur on any part of the body that gets a lot of exposure to the sun, but most commonly develops on the head or neck.
The basal cells are skin cells that occur in the lower part of the epidermis that is creatively called the basal cell layer. Their job is to replace the squamous cells that are constantly flaking off the skin’s surface, and they do so by continually dividing. As the basal cells get older, they move up the layers of the epidermis and gradually become flat squamous cells.
What are the warning signs?
There are five warning signs of basal cell carcinoma.
- One of the earliest signs of a basal cell carcinoma is a persistent open sore. In some cases, the sore won’t heal; in other cases, the sore does heal, only to come back a few weeks later.
- The basal cell carcinoma can also take the form of a reddish patch on the skin. This type often occurs on the face, limbs, chest or shoulders. The patch may itch or form a crust, or it may not cause any discomfort.
- The basal cell carcinoma might also be a bump or nodule. It is usually shiny and can be clear or colored. In dark-haired people, the basal cell carcinoma can look like a normal mole and be tan, brown or black. In other people, the basal cell carcinoma is white, pink or red.
- The basal cell carcinoma can also take the form of a pink growth with a crusty dent in the middle and a raised border. In this type of basal cell carcinoma, small blood vessels can develop on the surface as the carcinoma grows.
- The most ominous sign is a scar-like area with vaguely defined borders. The skin looks taut, shiny and waxy, and it can be white or yellow. This sign can indicate a basal cell carcinoma that is bigger than it first appears to be.
Treating Basal Cell Carcinoma
Our medical team will start by taking notes of the patient’s medical history and a description of when they first noticed the suspected basal cell carcinoma. We will want to know if the patient has observed any changes.
We will then conduct a physical exam during which we will examine the suspected basal cell carcinoma. We will also examine the lymph nodes and areas on the skin, like moles, that might also be cancerous.
Your treatment provider might use a device called dermatoscope, which is a special magnifying glass with a light source. It gives the dermatologist a better view of any spots on the skin.
Afterwards, we might conduct a skin biopsy during which he will remove at least part of the suspected basal cell carcinoma and send it to a lab for analysis. If we remove the whole thing that will probably be enough to cure the cancer.
If you have questions about a spot or make on your body, our team at Doctors Approach can help. We can offer a diagnosis and treatment options for a variety of skin concerns and conditions. Contact Doctors Approach today to schedule your consultation.