Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. It originates in the skin’s basal layer, among cells known as keratinocytes. Keratinocytes are responsible for protecting the body from environmental damage, including excessive heat, water loss, disease germs, and parasites. Cells in the basal layer are also responsible for creating new cells to replace old ones that die and are sloughed off. Basal cell carcinomas frequently develop on parts of the body that are exposed to sunlight or other, artificial sources of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Like any cancers basal cell carcinomas can spread, but are slow-growing and often successfully treated.

If you suspect you have symptoms of basal cell carcinoma, arrange to see your Baptist Health family physician or oncologist today.

Where Does Basal (BCC) Cell Carcinoma Grow?

Basal cell carcinomas can grow anywhere you have skin but they are most often located in bodily areas that are regularly exposed to sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet radiation. This includes:

  • Nose
  • Scalp
  • Ears
  • Lips
  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Wrists
  • Hands

Less-exposed areas that are subject to basal cell carcinomas include the legs, trunk, and genitals. 

What Are the Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)?

The primary symptom of basal cell carcinoma is a skin lesion. The lesion’s color, shape, and texture can take various forms:

  • A scaly red patch raised slightly above skin level
  • A borderless white scar
  • A dark-color lesion with a translucent border
  • A translucent pink or white bump in which blood vessels may be seen.

Risk factors for basal cell carcinomas include sun-damaged skin, a family history of skin cancers or lesions, a depleted immune system, and certain chemical exposures and genetic disorders.

What Causes Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)?

Like other cancers, basal cell carcinomas occur when mutations in DNA cause changes in cell behavior. Cancerous cells reproduce more rapidly than normal cells, outliving them and interfering with the body’s proper functioning. The primary generator of mutations in basal cells is overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, either from sunlight or from artificial sources, such as tanning beds.

There are several things you can do to limit the possibility of developing basal cell carcinoma:

  • Reduce your exposure to the sun, especially during peak, midday hours.
  • When outdoors, dress accordingly. Cover your skin with long-sleeve shirts, full-length pants, hats, bandanas, socks, and shoes.
  • Apply sunscreen to any exposed skin. Make sure that whatever product you’re using offers an adequate level of protection, as measured by SPF, or sun-protection factor. 
  • Stay out of tanning beds.

Individuals who have had skin cancer in the past need to be particularly careful. Have your skin checked regularly by a doctor.

How Is Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) Diagnosed?

Your physician will likely take the following steps to diagnose basal cell carcinoma:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will look you over for evidence of a cancerous growth. He or she will also ask questions about your medical history and possible risk factors. 
  • Biopsy: To confirm the presence of cancer, your physician will collect a tiny sample of any lesion he or she finds, called a biopsy. The biopsy will be sent to a medical lab for analysis. You will receive test results in a few days to a couple of weeks 

How Is Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) Treated?

Minor surgery is the most common means of treating basal cell carcinoma. Your physician may perform the procedure in his or her office. There are a variety of surgical techniques utilized for basal cell carcinoma, depending on the size, nature, and location of the cancerous growth:

  • Excision: Your physician cuts the cancer from the skin, along with some of the healthy tissue surrounding it. This is to ensure the cancer’s elimination. 
  • Mohs surgery: Mohs surgery supplements excision with a microscopic examination of the remaining skin, to ensure complete removal of the cancer. 
  • Curettage and electrodessication (C&E): C&E is a two-step process, in which the surface of the skin is scraped away with a curette and the cancerous remnant is burned off with an electric needle or similar device. 
  • Topical chemotherapy: An anticancer chemical is applied to the skin, sometimes with microneedles. 
  • Superficial radiation therapy: High-energy X-ray or proton beams are directed at the cancerous growth. 
  • Cryosurgery: In cryosurgery, the physician uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill the cancer spot. 
  • Photodynamic therapy: The surgeon applies a liquid to the cancer that makes it photosensitive. The cancer cells weaken and die when a light beam is directed at them. 

Basal cell carcinomas are treatable and beatable. The key is early detection by your physician. If you’re concerned about the possibility of basal cell carcinoma, don’t put off a trip to the doctor.

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