Basal Cell Carcinoma: Dangerous? Yes. Treatable? Absolutely

Health Writer
Thinkstock

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer, with more than four million new cases diagnosed each year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It is considered the least dangerous type of skin cancer. It often grows slowly, and sometimes the lesions appear the same size for years. It rarely metastasizes, or spreads to other parts of the body.

For all of these reasons, some people mistakenly believe that BCC is not dangerous and doesn’t need to be treated.

Four reasons to treat basal cell carcinoma

  1. Even when lesions from basal cell carcinoma on your skin’s surface don’t appear to be changing, the cancer might still be growing. Some BCCs grow in irregular patterns under the skin, making the cancer seem smaller than it is. The cancer can affect tissue and bones. While major organs are rarely affected, muscle and nerve damage can occur, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

  2. When not treated, the growth of the cancer can cause disfigurement because of internal damage. Treatment, which usually includes excision of the tumor, can be quite extensive when the cancer continues to grow unchecked. “The longer you wait, the more damage and disfigurement the tumor can do and the more difficult it is to treat” without causing cosmetic issues, according to Rex Amonette, M.D., the co-founder of The Skin Cancer Foundation.

  1. When treated early, BCC is highly curable. Mohs surgery, a common treatment for BCC, has a cure rate of 99 percent. Excision, where the physician cuts out the growth, has a cure rate above 95 percent.

  2. Most treatments for BCC are done as outpatient and often can be performed in your doctor’s office. Treatment does not usually involve extended time away from work or family.

Looking out for basal cell carcinoma

Sometimes basal cell carcinoma is overlooked because it doesn’t "look like cancer." It might appear as a small dome shaped skin growth or a shiny or slightly scaly pink or red patch. It might be skin colored and resemble a scar. It might be a small pink dot on your skin. It could look like a sore.

Regular skin checks are important. When you complete self-skin checks monthly, you notice if new spots or lesions appear. Some of the warning signs of BCC that should be checked by a dermatologist, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, are:

  • An open sore that doesn’t heal or that starts to heal and then opens up again.

  • A skin bump that is pearly, waxy, or red and scaly.

  • A scar-like spot without having had an injury.

  • A spot that oozes or crusts.

  • A spot with irregular blood vessels around it.

  • A sore that has a depressed center.

As always, if you have a sore or spot that changes in appearance, color, size or texture, you should contact your dermatologist.

See more helpful articles:

10 Things You Need to Know About Basal Cell Carcinoma

The Recurrence of Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer

What to Expect: Topical Chemotherapy

The Healing Process After Mohs Surgery