The most common form of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. It accounts for almost 90% of all types of skin cancer in the US. The cancerous cells are most active around the face and neck regions, though instances of its development around the trunk is not very rare. Although it is not malignant, 80% of the time it does cause local disfigurement. The article provides information about the various symptoms of this condition and the treatment options available.
Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that is commonly observed among Caucasians. The cancer is not clinically known to metastasize or kill, but it is locally invasive. Usually concentrated around the head and neck region, the cancer shows up in a number of forms. The condition is usually genetic or is caused due to over-exposure to direct rays of the sun. The condition occurs due to cancer of the basal cells of the skin, these cells are responsible for the growth of new cells when the old ones die. The instances of this cancer have increased in the last three decades, and it is believed that 4 out of every 10 Caucasians are affected by this condition.
UV rays from the sun lead to the formation of thymine dimers in the DNA. These dimers cause mutations, which in turn depresses the immune system in the afflicted area. This cancer also develops due to basal cell nevus syndrome or Gorlin’s syndrome. The mutation of the PTCH1 gene, which is responsible for tumor suppression and is located within chromosome 9q22.3, inhibits the necessary signaling and causes this condition.
The condition surfaces in a number of ways, most of which are initially neglected. Hence, it is very essential to be attentive to the appearance of:
- Flesh-colored translucent papules that ulcerate in time.
- Cystic formations that have a central fluid-filled cavity.
- Nodular variant that is often mistaken for skin cancer or melanoma.
- A scar or infiltrative lesion.
- A scaly patch in the affected area, which is red in color. This form is commonly confused with eczema.
- Basosquamous carcinoma, that develops around the lips and ears. This form has been mainly responsible for deaths in immunosuppressed individuals.
- Fibroepitheliomal skin tag.
Though most features of this condition resemble numerous noncancerous skin psoriasis or eczema, it is advisable to report any worrisome observation in skin texture to the physician immediately. Other than the aforementioned signs, one should also immediately report:
- A sore that persistently oozes, bleeds, or crusts temporarily and then bleeds again. Any non-healing sore should be addressed immediately to rule out the instance.
- A red patch that keeps appearing on the face, shoulders, chest, and limbs. The pain, itchiness, or even painlessness should not be ignored.
- A shiny nodule, either red, pink, or white in color, should not be confused with a mole, and should be brought to the attention of your doctor immediately.
- A growth with an elevated border and an indentation that is crusted should not be neglected either. One should also investigate scars with undefined borders.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Basal cell carcinoma usually occurs on the parts of the body that are regularly exposed to direct sunlight. It may also occur due to genetic predisposition. The condition is diagnosed via skin biopsy. In this method, a tissue is extracted for pathological study. The operation for tissue extraction takes place under local anesthesia. The method could either involve a deeper incision to scoop out more tissue, or a shave biopsy in which only the surface tissue is removed. Clinically, without biopsy, it becomes difficult to diagnose the condition, since most variants resemble benign lesions.
The treatment options include standard surgical excision, Mohs surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation, photodynamic therapy, cryosurgery, and/or electrodessication and curettage. The chances of overpowering the onslaught of the condition are more, if the appropriate method of treatment is adopted while treating the primary basal cancerous cells. Its recurrence should be avoided at all costs. The condition is common in fair-skinned people, especially those with a family history of cancer. It is common in the regions closer to the equator and at high altitudes. The cancer could also lead to the development of Nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome.