Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
BCC is the most common form of all cancers. It is also the most common type of skin cancer and it affects 800,000 Americans each year. These cancers arise in the basal cells, which are at the bottom of the epidermis (outer skin layer). Individuals at the highest risk are those with a fair complexion, have family history of skin cancer, or have had a high level of sun exposure.
Main Characteristics of BCC:
- A pink growth with a slightly elevated rolled border and a crusted indentation in the center. As the growth slowly enlarges, tiny blood vessels may develop on the surface. This is the most common appearance.
- An open sore that bleeds, oozes or crusts and remains open for three or more weeks. A persistent, non-healing sore is a common sign of an early basal cell carcinoma.
- A shiny bump, or nodule, that is pearly or translucent and is often pink, red or white. The bump can also be tan, black or brown, especially in dark-haired people, and can be confused with a mole.
- A scar-like area that is white, yellow or waxy, and often has poorly defined borders. The skin itself appears shiny and taught. This warning sign can indicate the presence of an aggressive tumor.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
SCC is the second most common skin cancer and effects more than 200,000 Americans each year. Squamous cells make up the epidermis, or upper layer of skin. SCC may occur on all areas of the body including the mucous membranes, but are most common in areas exposed to the sun.
Although SCC is slow growing it will eventually penetrate the underlying tissues. If not treated, SCC can become disfiguring. In a small percentage of cases, SCC metastasize, or spread, to other tissues and organs. In this case, SCC can become fatal. But if caught at it’s earliest stages, a simple surgical procedure or application of a topical chemotherapeutic agent will effectively treat it.
Main Characteristics of SCC:
- A wart-like growth that crusts and occasionally bleeds
- A persistent, scaly red patch with irregular borders that sometimes crusts or bleeds
- An open sore that bleeds and crusts and persists for weeks
- An elevated growth with a central depression that occasionally bleeds. A growth this type may rapidly increase in size.
Treatment for Skin Cancers
One of the most common treatment methods for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma is to excise it, or to remove it surgically. Using a scalpel, the physician removes the entire growth along with a small border of normal skin. This method ensures the entire growth is removed. The incision is closed and the removed lesion is sent to a laboratory. In the lab, it is verified that all cancerous cells have been removed.
Recovery time for excisional surgery is short. Local or monitored anesthesia, or a combination, may be used. It can often be as an outpatient procedure in a hospital or surgery center.
Another treatment for skin cancer is a Moh’s Micrographic Surgery. We work with a specially trained dermatogist who removes very thin layers of the remaining tissue that surrounds the lesion. The skin is removed one layer at a time. Each layer is checked under a microscope and the procedure is repeated until the last layer of skin viewed is cancer-free.
Our physicians then close the defect created by the Moh’s excision, possibly with a skin graft, in a procedure called a Moh’s Closure.
A local or monitored anesthesia, or a combination of both, may be used in a Moh’s Closure. It is typically performed in a hospital or surgery center.