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Basal cell skin carcinoma

Basal cell skin carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer in people with light skin tones.  Basel cell skin cancer most often occurs on parts of the body that are normally exposed to the sun like the head, face, neck, and arms.  This type of cancer, while commonly occurring, has a slow growth rate and typically does not spread to other body parts.  Basal cell skin cancer is usually effectively treated and regrowth is unusual.  BCC is very rare in people with darker colored skin.

Basal cell carcinomas appear throughout the affected area in varying forms, but usually as some sort of pustule or cyst.  This can be particularly disfiguring or cause obviously discolored skin patches or other problematic areas on the body.  The risk for developing BCC is greater for people who have had a large amount of concentrated exposure to UV light, and sometimes in people who have had significant chemical exposure, such as to arsenic.

Variations of basal cell carcinoma include nodular, cystic, pigmented, superficial, micronodular, and morpheaform.  The most common form of basal cell carcinoma is nodular and most often appears as a slightly off colored papule with a discolored and crater-like center.  While the other types of basal cell carcinomas are less common, they can also create skin problems as well. 

All types of suspected basal cell carcinomas should be given a biopsy to first diagnose the skin problem.  In general, if the area is particularly small, the initial biopsy can remove the problem in its entirety.  Even if the biopsy result shows basal cell carcinoma, the removal will have most likely cleared up the cancer from continued growth.  Larger suspect areas will be biopsied first and then removed completely only when malignancy is discovered.  Frequently some focused radiation therapy is used on the area as well.

The procedure for removing basal cell carcinomas is fairly straightforward and generally painless.  The tumor or cyst is scraped out and then the area is cauterized, sealing the skin and preventing further infection or bleeding.  The remaining scar tissue is left to heal on its own.

Basal cell skin carcinoma can be problematic because of its unusually discolored appearance.  Many times a plastic surgeon can be of service in cosmetically improving areas of basal cell skin cancer with lasers or other techniques.

Symptoms to be on the lookout for are bumps on the skin with a pearlescent appearance, lesions that are tough to the touch, bleeding areas, red spots, or spidery blood vessels that are raised or more pronounced than usual.

In all cases of unusual skin problems, a dermatologist should be seen immediately.  Only with a fast and effective diagnosis can a full recovery be made.

In case of unusual skin problems, use the button below to find a board certified plastic surgeon in your area.