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Basal cell skin cancer is the most common type of skin cancer. It grows slowly and usually doesn't spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. But if this cancer isn't treated, it can damage the nearby skin and deeper tissues. When it's found and treated early, it is almost always cured.
Skin cancer usually appears as a growth that changes in colour, shape, or size. This can be a sore that doesn't heal or a change in a mole or skin growth. Basal cell skin cancer usually occurs on the face, head, or trunk of the body.
Your doctor will ask about your past health and do a physical exam. This will include taking a close look at the skin growth. The doctor may take a sample (biopsy) of the growth to test in a lab. A biopsy can confirm whether the cells are cancer.
Your doctor will want to remove all of the cancer. The most common way is surgery to cut out the abnormal growth. Radiation may be done if surgery isn't an option. Other treatments include medicines that are put on the skin (topical therapies) and photodynamic therapy. After treatment, you will need regular checkups.
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Basal cell skin cancer usually affects the face, head, and trunk of the body. The nose is the most common site.
Signs of basal cell skin cancer include:
Basal cell skin cancer usually develops slowly. Because of this slow growth, it can often be detected and treated early, increasing the chance for a cure.
If basal cell skin cancer isn't treated, it can damage the skin and deeper tissues where it started, including muscle and bone. But this cancer very rarely spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body.
After you have one basal cell skin cancer, you are more likely to have another one develop in a new place.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
Your doctor will want to remove all of the cancer. There are several ways to remove it. It depends on how big it is, where it is on your body, and your age and overall health. Options include:
Radiation therapy may be done if surgery isn't an option. Treatment for advanced cases may include targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy.
After treatment, you'll need regular checkups.
Protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays. For example, stay out of the sun during midday hours, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, and wear protective clothing. Get skin exams as advised by your doctor and check all of your own skin for changes. Avoid medicines that can make your skin more sensitive to UV rays.
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAmy McMichael MD - DermatologyLesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Amy McMichael MD - Dermatology & Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine
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