A Short Guide to Basal Cell Carcinoma

Posted on: 13 February 2018

Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer which begins in the lower layer of the epidermis. It is less well known and can be more difficult to recognise than melanoma skin cancer, even though, as Cancer Council Australia explains, it accounts for around 70% of non-melanoma skin cancers. While it is not usually life-threatening and takes a long time to spread to other parts of the body, it is still important to be diagnosed as early as possible. This article explains basal cell carcinoma in detail, including the symptoms, the diagnostic process, how to prevent it and how it can be cured.

Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma 

WebMD describes the different ways that basal cell carcinoma can look in detail, but generally, it consists of a small pink or brown dome-shaped lump with a translucent appearance. It may also appear shiny, and grow over time. There do not tend to be symptoms other than the lump itself. You should perform regular skin checks, especially on areas that are exposed to the sun such as the face and neck, and see your GP if you notice anything unusual. 

Diagnosing Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is generally diagnosed through a biopsy, which is a procedure where some or all of the affected skin is removed surgically so that it can be examined further. As the NHS explains, you will typically be referred to a dermatologist for this procedure. 

Preventing Basal Cell Carcinoma

As with many types of cancer, there are some practical steps you can take to lower the chances of getting basal cell carcinoma. This type of cancer is caused by overexposure to UV light, most commonly sunlight. Therefore, you should ensure that you wear sun cream when outdoors, as well as keeping your face and neck protected with a hat. You should also avoid sunbed use, as this also exposes the skin to UV light. As the British Skin Foundation points out, certain people should take special care, such as those with light skin or hair. 

Treatment For Basal Cell Carcinoma

If caught early, this type of skin cancer is not difficult to treat. The most common treatment is the removal of the affected skin, under a local anaesthetic. In some cases, this is all that is required to get rid of the cancer. Some patients may be required to undergo chemotherapy, but this can typically be done with chemotherapy cream rather than by other, more invasive methods. If the cancer is in a visible part of the face, making surgery an unpleasant option, then radiotherapy may be available.

While basal cell carcinoma is generally not life-threatening and is very slow to spread to other parts of the body, it is still important to be diagnosed as soon as possible. Remember to perform regular skin checks, protect yourself in the sun, and see a doctor if you are worried about your skin.