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Basal cell carcinoma

  • Alternative Names

    Rodent ulcer; Skin cancer - basal cell; Cancer - skin - basal cell


    Treatment

    Treatment varies depending on the size, depth, and location of the basal cell cancer. It will be removed using one of the following procedures:

    • Excision cuts the tumor out and uses stitches to place the skin back together.
    • Curettage and electrodesiccation scrapes away the cancer and uses electricity to kill any remaining cancer cells.
    • Surgery, including Mohs surgery, in which skin is cut out and immediately looked at under a microscope to check for cancer. The process is repeated until the skin sample is free of cancer.
    • Cryosurgery freezes and kills the cancer cells.
    • Radiation may be used if the cancer has spread to organs or lymph nodes or for tumors that can't be treated with surgery.
    • Skin creams with the medications imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil may be used to treat superficial basal cell carcinoma.

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    Expectations (prognosis)

    The rate of basal cell skin cancer returning is about 1% with Mohs surgery, and up to 10% for other forms of treatment. Smaller basal cell carcinomas are less likely to come back than larger ones. Basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

    You should follow-up with your doctor as recommended and regularly examine your skin once a month, using a mirror to check hard-to-see places. Call your doctor if you notice any suspicious skin changes.


    Complications

    Untreated, basal cell cancer can spread to nearby tissues or structures, causing damage. This is most worrisome around the nose, eyes, and ears.


    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if you notice any changes in the color, size, texture, or appearance of any area of skin. You should also call if an existing spot becomes painful or swollen, or if it starts to bleed or itch.