Your skin is an organ made up of several layers, and the outermost layer is called the epidermis. Basal cells make up the deepest part of the epidermis. Any abnormal, uncontrolled growth or lesion that arises from this layer is known as a basal cell carcinoma, or BCC.
Although BCC can appear on any part of your body, it’s usually seen in areas that are most often exposed to the sun, including your face (often on the nose), neck, ears, scalp, backs of the hands, arms, and legs. It can be caused by cumulative, lifetime exposure to ultraviolet light, or by briefer instances of intense exposure. Tanning bed use can also cause BCCs.
Because there are different types of BCCs, it can take different forms on your skin. A basal cell carcinoma may appear as a sore that bleeds easily, oozes, or crusts over. It may not heal or it may heal and then return. Sometimes a BCC has visible blood vessels around it or has a sunken, crater-like center. Any of the following may be a BCC:
After performing a thorough skin exam, your doctor will biopsy any suspicious lesions. The only way to diagnose any form of skin cancer, including BCC, is with a biopsy.
Like most skin cancers, BCC is best treated through complete surgical removal. Because BCCs don’t usually spread, successful treatment usually involves removing the growth itself, and a small area surrounding it. BCC may be removed through excision, which simply involves cutting out the BCC along with a small amount of the surrounding skin.
Mohs surgery is a more advanced procedure, which is why it has a higher cure rate for BCCs that are more difficult to treat. Dr. Hyland Cronin is the Mohs surgeon who performs this state-of-the-art procedure at Easton Dermatology Associates. Mohs surgery involves excising the visible parts of a BCC, then removing successive layers of skin that may still contain cancer cells. As each successive layer is removed, it’s examined under the microscope. Further layers are removed until cancer cells can no longer be detected.
Protecting yourself from the sun and avoiding tanning beds are the two most important things you can do to protect yourself from BCCs and other forms of skin cancer. Apply sunscreen whenever you plan to be outside, even on cool or cloudy days. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and clothes that provide more coverage is also helpful. Do your best to avoid spending too much time in the hot, midday sun, and if you are outdoors during that time of day, stay in the shade.
At Easton Dermatology Associates, we accept most major insurance plans. Here is a list of some of the plans we accept. Please contact our office if you do not see your insurance provider listed.