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Basal Cell Carcinoma  
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Definition  

Skin cancer is when cancer cells grow in the skin.

The two most common kinds of skin cancer are:

  • Basal cell carcinoma —This is the most common type of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma develops in the outermost layer of skin. This cancer usually grows slowly and does not spread to other tissues in the body.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma —This cancer develops in the uppermost layer of skin cells. Squamous cell carcinoma usually grows slowly. However, in some cases it can grow fast and spread to other tissues in the body. If treated early this type of cancer is rarely fatal. However, the cancer can be fatal if it spreads beyond the skin.

It is important that skin cancers be found and treated early. If left untreated, they can quickly invade and destroy nearby tissue.

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Causes  

Cancer occurs when skin cells in the body divide without control or order. When cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms. This is called a growth or tumor. Unlike benign tumors, malignant tumors can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body.

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Risk Factors  

Basal and squamous cell cancers are more common in men and in people over 50 years old. These cancers are most likely to occur in people with:

  • Fair skin that freckles easily
  • Red or blonde hair
  • Light-colored eyes
  • Caucasian skin

Other factors that increase your risk of skin cancer include:

  • Personal history of skin cancer
  • Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or artificial radiation from a tanning bed
  • Excessive sun exposure without protective clothing or sunscreen
  • Skin damage from burns or infections
  • Exposure to arsenic, industrial tar, coal, paraffin, and certain types of oil
  • Radiation therapy treatment
  • Light treatments for psoriasis , especially psoralen ultraviolet A (PUVA)
  • Having a weak immune system due to illness or medications
  • Certain genetic diseases, such as basal cell nevus syndrome or xeroderma pigmentosum
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Symptoms  

Most skin cancers do not cause symptoms. The most common first symptom of skin cancer is a change in the skin.

Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a:

  • Slowly expanding, painless growth
  • Bleeding scab or sore that heals and recurs
  • Flat, firm, pale area
  • Small, raised, pink, red, shy, or pearly areas thay may bleed easily
  • Large oozing, crusted area

Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as a:

  • Growing lumps with rough, scaly, or crusted surfaces
  • Slow-growing flat, reddish patches in the skin
  • Recurrent, nonhealing ulceration or bleeding

Skin cancers can occur anywhere, but are more common on places that are exposed to the sun.

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Diagnosis  

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

You may have a biopsy . The sample can then be examined for cancer cells.

In cases where the growth is very large, or has been present for a long time, the doctor will carefully check the lymph nodes in the area. Your doctor may recommend more tests to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

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Treatment  

Talk to your doctor about the best treatment for you. Treatment may include one or more of the following:

Surgery  

Many skin cancers can be cut from the skin quickly and easily. In fact, the cancer is sometimes completely removed during biopsy, and no further treatment is needed. Surgical techniques include:

Curettage and Electrodesiccation  

This involves scooping the cancer out with a curette, an instrument with a sharp, spoon-shaped end. The area is treated with an electric current to control bleeding. This also kills any cancer cells remaining around the edge of the wound. This technique is used for very small or superficial cancers.

Mohs Surgery  

Mohs surgery is the removal of all of the cancerous tissue. The surgeon will try to remove as little healthy tissue as possible. This method is used to remove:

  • Large tumors
  • Tumors in hard-to-treat places
  • Tumors of undetermined shape and depth
  • Cancers that have recurred

The procedure is done by specially trained dermatologic Mohs surgeons. The cancer is shaved off one thin layer at a time. Each layer is checked under a microscope for cancer cells until the entire tumor is removed.

Cryosurgery  

Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze and kill the abnormal cells. After the area thaws, the dead tissue falls off. More than one freezing may be needed to remove the growth completely. This method may be used to treat precancerous skin conditions (actinic keratoses) and certain small or superficial skin cancers.

Laser Therapy  

Laser therapy uses a narrow beam of light to remove or destroy cancer cells. This method is sometimes used for cancers in the outer layer of skin.

Radiation Therapy