What is basal cell carcinoma?
Carcinoma is a medical word for cancer. Basal cells are a type of cell in your skin. So basal cell carcinoma is a kind of skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer
Fair-skinned people are more likely to get it than darker-skinned people
It usually grows on skin that has been exposed to the sun
Doctors usually remove this kind of skin cancer with surgery Surgery for Cancer Cancer surgery is when doctors operate to remove cancerous tumors. Usually, doctors operate only when: The cancer hasn't spread (metastasized) anywhere Your body is strong enough to go through... read more , but sometimes they treat it with chemotherapy Chemotherapy Chemotherapy is a drug that destroys cancer cells. Chemotherapy works by shutting down cell growth. But since all cells in the body grow, chemotherapy drugs also destroy some normal cells and... read more or radiation Radiation Therapy for Cancer Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses beams of radiation to destroy cancer cells and shrink cancer tumors. Doctors use radiation to treat many types of cancer, including head, neck... read more
Unlike other cancers, basal cell carcinoma hardly ever spreads to other parts of the body or kills you
What causes basal cell carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinoma is often caused by sun exposure.
What are the symptoms of basal cell carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinoma is usually a growth (tumor) on your skin (usually on your head or neck) that is:
Small, shiny, firm, and raised
Almost clear to pink in color
Full of visible tiny blood vessels
Sometimes, with a thickened, pearly white outer border
It can also appear as:
Raised bumps that may break open and form scabs in the center
Flat pale or red patches that look like scars
Sores that bleed, form a scab, and heal over
Tumors are usually slow growing but can grow as much as a half inch in a year.
How can doctors tell if I have basal cell carcinoma?
To tell if you have this type of skin cancer, doctors will:
Do a biopsy (take out a small sample of skin to look at it under a microscope)
How do doctors treat basal cell carcinoma?
To treat basal cell carcinoma, doctors will remove the cancer in one of these ways:
Scrape and burn it with an electric needle
If the cancer has spread to other parts of your body, your doctor may give you chemotherapy Chemotherapy Chemotherapy is a drug that destroys cancer cells. Chemotherapy works by shutting down cell growth. But since all cells in the body grow, chemotherapy drugs also destroy some normal cells and... read more to take by mouth.
How can I prevent basal cell carcinoma?
The best way to prevent basal cell carcinoma is to limit sun exposure:
Stay out of the sun—sit in the shade, try to avoid the sun between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm
Don't sunbathe or use tanning beds
Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and hats with broad brims
Use sunscreen that’s at least 30 sun protection factor (SPF)—it's important to use more sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating
See a doctor if you see a change in a skin growth that doesn't go away after a few weeks.