According to the American Cancer Society (ACA), 8 out of 10 skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma. The risk of this type of cancer is higher among individuals who freckle or burn easily or have very light skin, light-colored eyes, and red or blonde hair.
Understanding Basal Cell Carcinoma
BCC typically appears as small pink or red bumps with a pearly or waxy appearance. It is a tumor of the basal cells of the epidermis, commonly found in the face, ears, neck, and back of hands. It may be flat or raised with a central depression and grow slowly. Over time it may grow into large masses up to several centimeters across.
BCC usually arises from sun-damaged or non-damaged skin, usually in older men. A person’s amount of sun exposure affects the likelihood of developing BCCs. In short, the more you are exposed to the sun, the higher your risk of BCC.
Basal cell carcinomas are rarely fatal if treated early. Though it’s unusual, BCC can spread to other body parts if neglected, called melanomas. If surgery is an option in your situation and living in Toronto, look for Toronto Minor Surgery Center (TMSC). TMSC does skin cancer screening in Toronto and performs all minor surgeries.
BCC can be diagnosed by initially observing changes in lesions like surface ulcers, bleeding, itching, or scaling with possible involvement of underlying cartilage. If the lesion is diagnosed as a tumor, further tests are required to assess the overall extent of disease and degree of malignancy.
A doctor’s physical examination of the skin is often sufficient to determine whether a lesion requires removal. However, further tests are necessary if there is any doubt or concern over malignancy.
A biopsy, including a margin of normal tissue, should be performed to determine the type and grade of the tumor. The grading system for BCCs depends on the location of the tumor:
- Superficial. Cancer found only in the epidermis
- Nodular. Cancer found up to but not through the papillary dermis
- Infiltrative. Cancer has reached levels considered deeper than nodular
- Morpheaform. Tumors exhibiting features of both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, resulting from a fusion between genetically distinct epithelial and mesenchymal cells.
BCC Treatment and Recovery
Basal cell carcinoma treatment typically focuses on destroying the cancer cells through medical means rather than surgically eliminating them. It’s because these cells do not usually invade structures and metastasize (or travel to other regions).
If you experience any pain or tenderness (like a lump), you should consult your physician immediately. Your doctor may recommend treatments, such as dermabrasion, radiation therapy, cryosurgery, and photodynamic therapy. Cryotherapy is the process of freezing cancer cells using liquid nitrogen, while photodynamic therapy is a treatment that causes localized damage to cells through exposure to certain types of light.
Surgery is necessary if there’s a risk of contamination or infection. However, your doctor will wait for the area to heal before performing the procedure to avoid infection or other complications. As you know, these cancers are slow-growing, so it takes months before spreading out of control.
Other minor surgical procedures performed by TMSC include earlobe reconstruction, lipoma removal, sebaceous cyst removal, etc.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) Recovery
Recovery time depends on how your body responds to your basal cell carcinoma treatment. Remember that it’s normal to experience redness (erythema), edema (swelling), and blistering in the beginning. But these symptoms will go away as you continue with your recovery. If you had photodynamic therapy, signs of skin irritation should subside within 10-14 days after your last session.
It can take a few more weeks before complete recovery (until the skin doesn’t feel warm). Some people wear sunscreen during this period because sun exposure can aggravate the symptoms.
If your doctor may put you under general anesthesia. The surgery takes approximately 30-60 minutes and requires stitches (or skin glue) to stop any bleeding, but these will dissolve on their own over time.
After your operation, you should rest for several days after returning home, with some physicians recommending complete bed rest for 24 hours. Patients who receive radiation therapy may require less downtime since there’s no risk of infection or pain after recovering from anesthesia. If you’re worried about scars, TMSC is your go-to clinic, Toronto’s finest keloid treatment facility.