What Is Basal Cell Carcinoma and How Is It Diagnosed?

The American Cancer Society (ACA) says that 8 out of 10 skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma (BCC). This type of cancer has higher risks for people who freckle or burn easily or have very light skin, light-colored eyes, and red or blonde hair.

Understanding Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) typically appears as small pink or red bumps with a pearly or waxy appearance. It is a tumor of the basal cells of the epidermis, often found in the face, ears, neck, and back of hands. It grows slowly, which can be flat or raised with a central depression. Over time, it may grow into large masses up to several centimeters. 

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer in humans, particularly fair-skinned people. It usually results from sun-damaged or non-damaged skin, mostly in older men. If an individual is more exposed to the sun, the higher their risk of developing BCC.

Basal cell carcinomas are rarely fatal if treated early. Though it’s uncommon, BCC can spread to other body parts if neglected, called melanomas. You may visit the Toronto Minor Surgery Center (TMSC) page for more info, including the cyst removal in Toronto cost.

BCC Diagnosis

BCC can be diagnosed by initially observing changes in lesions such as surface ulcers, bleeding, itching, or scaling with possible involvement of underlying cartilage. If your doctor confirms the lesion is diagnosed as a tumor, further tests are required to assess the overall extent of disease and degree of malignancy. 

In most cases, your doctor’s physical skin examination is sufficient to identify whether a lesion requires removal. However, further tests are needed if there is any doubt or concern over malignancy, such as biopsy.

A biopsy, including a margin of normal tissue, should be performed to determine the type and grade of the tumor. The grading system for BCCs depends on the location of the tumor:

  • Superficial. Cancer found only in the epidermis
  • Nodular. Cancer found up to but not through the papillary dermis
  • Infiltrative. Cancer has reached levels considered deeper than nodular
  • Morpheaform. Tumors show basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma features, resulting from a fusion between genetically distinct epithelial and mesenchymal cells.

BCC Treatment and Recovery

Basal cell carcinoma treatment typically focuses on destroying the cancer cells through medical means rather than surgically eliminating them since they do not usually invade structures and metastasize (or travel to other regions). 

If you experience any pain or tenderness (like a lump), you should consult your physician immediately. They may recommend treatments, such as dermabrasion, radiation therapy, cryosurgery, and photodynamic therapy. Cryotherapy is the process of freezing cancer cells utilizing liquid nitrogen, while photodynamic therapy is a treatment that causes localized damage to cells through exposure to certain types of light. 

Surgery is necessary if there’s a risk of contamination or infection. However, your doctors may wait for the area to heal before performing the procedure to prevent infection or other complications. It’s because these cancers are also slow-growing, so they’ll take months before spreading out of control. 

TMSC also performs other minor surgeries, such as TMSC lipoma removal, keloid scar removal, etc.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) Recovery

Many people ask, how long is the recovery for BCC treatment? Recovery time depends on how your body responds to your basal cell carcinoma treatment. Note that it’s common to experience redness (erythema), edema (swelling), and blistering at first. But these symptoms will fade away as you continue with your recovery. If you have photodynamic therapy, signs of skin irritation should subside within 10-14 days after your last session.

It may take several more weeks before complete recovery (until the skin doesn’t feel warm). Some people choose to wear sunscreen during this period since sun exposure can exacerbate the symptoms. 

If surgery is the proper treatment in your case, your doctor may put you under general anesthesia. Then they will give you local anesthesia to numb the area around the tumor to prevent unnecessary discomfort. The surgery takes approximately 30-60 minutes and requires stitches (or skin glue) to stop any bleeding, but these will dissolve on their own over time. 

After your surgery, you must rest for several days after returning home, with some doctors requiring complete bed rest for 24 hours. Patients who have had radiation therapy may need less recovery since there’s no risk of infection or pain after recovering from anesthesia. Click here for more details about BCC treatment options.

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