Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer. This is also referred as basal cell carcinoma epithelioma. This type of skin cancer is the most common type of skin cancer in the U.S and accounts for more than 90% of all the skin cancers in U.S. Basal cell carcinoma starts from the basal cells in the bottom layer of epidermis which is the outermost layer of the skin.
Appearance of Basal Cell Carcinoma:
Basal cell carcinoma is a slow growing type of skin cancer which can take months or years to grow. At the initial stages it appears as only a dry patch of skin and so it is difficult to distinguish it from the normal skin. As the time progresses it often appears as a shiny nodule few millimeters in diameter. It contains tiny blood vessels superficially and also some fluid generally looking like a pearl. This can appear on any sun exposed parts of the body like face, mouth, neck or on hands. Sometimes the nodule can ulcerate and ooze out fluid.
These nodules don’t metastasize but many of them can congregate to form a single one. This property makes this kind of skin cancer unique from others and less dangerous but it can cause local destruction or disfigurement if it occurs on nose, eyes or ears. Death by this type of skin cancer is less than 0.1%.
Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma:
Some warning symptoms of basal cell carcinoma are
• Some smooth nodule like appearance on the skin with tiny superficial blood vessels. Sometimes these nodules can also be dark.
• A irregular shaped white or yellow waxy scar on sun exposed skin
• A reddish spot with or without irritation mostly on hands and legs.
• A sore which is open for more than three weeks. Sometimes such sores can bleed or ooze out some fluid.
Diagnosis of basal Cell Carcinoma:
Basal Cell Carcinoma is usually is diagnosed by a procedure called ‘shave biopsy’ in which a small portion or entire growth of skin is removed after anesthesia. Then the sample is observed for cancer cells under a microscope.
Treatment of Basal Cell Carcinoma:
Mohs micrographic surgery: This method is the treatment of choice for basal cell carcinoma. Here a small amount of tissue is excised and stained and observed for cancer cells under microscope. If any cancerous cells are found, then more tissue is taken from that area. This procedure is continued until no more cancer cells are found. This method is more effective as it gives chance to remove all the cancerous tissue with minimum normal tissue. It also has highest cure rate of 99%.
Curettage and desiccation: Here the tissue is scooped by a spoon like instrument called curette. Desiccation is process of applying electric current to the tissue, to damage the remaining cancer cells and stop bleeding. The wound thus caused automatically heals. This procedure is more suitable for non vital areas like trunk or extremities.
Radiation therapy: This method is opted for tumors which are difficult to be removed by surgery.
Cryosurgery: Here the cancerous growth is killed by applying liquid nitrogen-a freezing agent.
Creams that stop DNA replication: some creams containing 5-flurouracil like fluroplex, efudex stop DNA replication thus stop cancerous growth.
Risk Factors for Basal Cell Carcinoma:
• Fair skin people are at higher risk as their skin has less melanin-a pigment offering protection against UV radiation.
• Mostly common in people of age between 45-80 yrs.
• People exposed to more UV radiation are more prone to be affected.
• Patients receiving radiation for treatment or other form of cancer can be more susceptible.
Basal cell carcinoma can be prevented by limiting sun exposure, using sunscreens. People over 45yrs should undergo regular checkups and notify the physician if any abnormality is observed on the skin.
So with proper precautionary measures basal cell carcinoma can be prevented.