The number of people diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma has drastically increased. Thanks in part to better technology allowing for advanced detection, identification in the early stages can aid in limiting the damage done to the skin, and the treatment time needed to cure cancer. According to Cancer.org, 5.4 million people are diagnosed with basal and squamous cell carcinoma.
Too Much Sun Exposure?
How do you know if you are at-risk for basal cell carcinoma? It normally begins with concerns around too much sun exposure. The head, face, neck, and back of the hands are areas that typically see problems with too much sun exposure. The nose in particular is one area that has increased sun exposure, leading some patients to need multiple surgeries to restore their nose after losing it to cancer.
Exposure to tanning beds also increases the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma. Tanning beds have harmful UV rays, which cause the skin to age faster. Younger people are starting to become diagnosed at younger ages, many research studies pointing to the use of tanning beds. While basal cell carcinoma is part of the skin cancer family, it is the least risky type of skin cancer according to WedMD.
What Does Basal Cell Carcinoma Look Like and Do?
This is a slow-growing type of skin cancer, and it normally does not spread to other areas of the body. However, the treatment often requires removal of the area, which destroys skin, tissue, and bone. Basal cell carcinoma will grow wide and deep. How do you know if you have it? Normally it has a skin growth with a dome shape that is pink, black, or brown. It starts to look like a flesh-colored mole or a pimple that never goes away, and the top of it might look shiny. It’s hard to know for sure for most people to identify, which is why you need to have annual skin cancer testing to make sure you are safe.
Do I Have Skin Cancer?
When you come in for a skin cancer screening, we will need to gather some information about your medical history to know what to do. Here are some questions to come prepared to answer:
- Did you spend a lot of time outside as a child?
- Have you ever had blistering sunburns?
- Have you always used sunscreen?
- Have you used tanning beds?
- Do you have unusual spots that bleed and do not heal well?
Lab testing is done to determine if the area is skin cancer or not. We will numb the area and remove a section of skin to have it tested for skin cancer. With the right diagnosis, it will allow us to determine the appropriate treatment.
How to Treat Basal Cell Carcinoma
Removing a Tumor
When it comes to treatment, we will need to evaluate the extent of growth to figure out if its best to cut out the tumor. Removal of the area involves numbing the tumor and carefully removing it and some surrounding skin. The tumor is removed and sent to a lab while the rest of the skin is stitched together. If cancer cells are detected, we may need to remove more skin to prevent additional problems with it, leading to terminal health issues.
Scraping a Tumor
Another way to destroy cancer cells is by using electricity. The area needs to be numbed prior to working on scraping it out of the skin and using an electric needle to kill the cancer cells.
Freezing Cancer Cells
Using liquid nitrogen, we will be able to kill cancer cells by freezing them. Freezing cancer cells has proven to be an effective treatment method for basal cell carcinoma. Ask us about this procedure to determine if its best for your situation.
One way to destroy cancer cells is through the use of radiation. Over the course of several weeks, patients will come into the office where they are attached to an x-ray machine to kill the cells. We careful administer this treatment and work with you throughout treatment to ensure it is working.
What Can You Do?
After you have received treatment, it is important to start focusing on your overall health. You need to check on your skin frequently to see if there are any new growths. Changing moles and freckles are areas to be concerned about. Not only do you want to do some self-examinations, you need to avoid too much sun. The highest UVB levels are from 10AM to 2PM, so it’s wise to limit your time in the sun during those hours.
If you do plan to go out in the sun, be sure to add on plenty of sunscreen! Sunscreen is one great thing to add, but it also helps to cover up! A broad-brimmed hat is a great way to limit the amount of sun on your face. Rashguards for the beach days are a great way to help prevent too much sun from coming in contact with your skin.
Contact us here at Allen-Taintor Dermatology for more information or to schedule an appointment with us today!