Basal cell carcinoma – know the facts

basal cell carcinomaWhilst almost everyone has heard of skin cancer, very few people have heard of basal cell carcinoma which is the official name for the most frequently diagnosed type of skin cancer.

The two main types of skin cancer are ‘melanoma’ and ‘non melanoma’ – this is a non-melanoma skin cancer, and according to the US Skin Cancer Foundation, basal cell carcinomas account for three out of every four new skin cancer cases s diagnosed by doctors.

Basal cell carcinomas form in the skin’s basal cells, which are found in the deepest part of the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis. They typically develop in areas that are exposed to the sun more, such as your face, head, neck and ears.

They often look red and angry, can be patchy and red or look like sores. They can also manifest themselves as shiny bumps or look like scar tissue. If you have noticed an area of your skin change to resemble any of these then arrange to see a doctor or skin specialist straight away to get yourself checked out.

What causes basal cell carcinomas?

This type of skin cancer is often linked to repeated over-exposure to the sun’s UV rays, or cases where the sun has damaged the skin – for example severe sunburn. There are some people who have a greater predisposition to this type of skin cancer – those with fair skin, blond or red hair are more likely to suffer. Also those with grey, blue or green eyes, or those with jobs where they spend a lot of time working outdoors. It can also be a hereditary condition.

Treatment for basal cell carcinomas

If this type of cancer is caught in the early stages then it is relatively easy to treat. Simple surgery is often recommended for people suffering with this type of cancer. If this is recommended, your surgeon will cut out the affected cells, along with a proportion of the healthy cells living within the same vicinity.

This is to ensure that the operation has removed all cells that could possibly be affected. In many cases, this treatment is sufficient to remove the cancer entirely.

Depending on how early you detected the cancer, you may be left with just a small scar. If the cancer had more time to develop before it was detected then the scar site will be larger, and may require a skin graft as part of your treatment.

Will this spread to other areas?

The good news with the particular type of skin cancer is that it rarely migrates to other areas. It is not a 100% guarantee that you are safe from it spreading, but cases are rare. Assuming this is caught early, treatment at the original tumour site should be all that you should expect to need.