What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and concerns the presence of irregular growths in the skin’s basal cells, located on the top layer of the skin. Basal Cell Cancers look distinctly different from the surrounding skin area and often resemble ulcers, reddish patches or numerous other conspicuous sores and are the result of prolonged sun exposure. Unlike melanomas, BCC’s almost never expand beyond the initial location of the cancerous tumour. Despite this, it should be noted however, that the tumour can still cause permanent disfiguration, if treatment is delayed.
Early stage BCC can often appear harmless to the naked eye or similar to non-life-threatening skin diseases, which is why it’s extremely important to have your skin routinely examined by a specialist. As the cancer progresses however, there are a number of tell-tale signs that are possible indicators of Basal Cell Carcinoma.
Open Sores – a sore that bleeds and refuses to properly heal is a common indicator of early stage BCC
Reddish Patch – a small, seemingly innocuous, itchy or slightly painful, reddish coloured patch of skin, most commonly found anywhere on the body that receives frequent sun exposure, such as the face, shoulders, arms etc.
Shiny blister or nodule – a highly conspicuous growth that is sometimes confused with an ordinary mole. The appearance is usually pearly or clear and can be a whole range of colours, from red or white, to black or brown
Pinkish sore – a pinkish coloured sore with a rough surface. As the cancerous tissue expands, minute blood vessels will often appear
Scar-like tissue – a small area of skin that often resembles ordinary scar tissue. The skin around the outside of the scar may be shiny and can portend the existence of a deep-lying BCC that is bigger than it appears to be
Basal Cell Carcinoma is typically caused by prolonged sun exposure over the course of a person’s lifetime and by bouts of short-term exposure to excessive amounts of high intensity sunlight. For this reason, BCC generally occurs on areas of the body that receive frequent exposure, such as the face, neck, shoulders and back. In extremely rare cases however, the cancers can develop in areas of the body that aren’t exposed to light. Although difficult to determine the exact cause, in circumstances such as these, the cancer can often be attributed to a whole host of non UV-related factors.
Who’s at Risk?
Although anyone who has had even a moderate amount of sun exposure throughout their lives has a chance of developing BCC, those with fair skin and light eyes are at most risk. Historically, this form of skin cancer is most common amongst older generations but in recent times, the average age of BCC sufferers has been falling dramatically, with many younger people now also developing the cancerous tumours, particularly those in their 20’s and 30’s. Basal Cell Carcinoma is more prevalent in men than in women, and not surprisingly, those with outdoor occupations or those who choose to spend their recreational time in the sun, all have a greater likelihood of developing the cancer.
Patients who have already been treated for BCC at some point in their life, are at an increased risk of developing further cancers later on. For this reason, they are strongly urged to make regular visits to a see a skin cancer specialist or dermatologist.
At Skin Clinic Robina, we provide a range of effective Basal Cell Carcinoma treatments at our Skin Cancer Clinic, including:
- Cream treatments
- Photodynamic therapy
- Curettage and cautery
- Simple excisions
- Flap surgery
- Graft surgery
- Margin control surgery
Generally, when BCC’s are removed, the resulting scar is very minor. If however the cancer is considerably large, a graft or flap may be required to adequately seal the wound and ensure the best possible cosmetic outcome.
It’s no secret that Australia is the driest continent on Earth, receiving excessive amounts of sunlight, right throughout the year. For this reason, it’s imperative that people incorporate a list of sun smart strategies when going outdoors, such as:
- Always try to minimise your sun exposure between the hottest hours of the day; 10 AM – 4 PM
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and (ideally) sunglasses with UV-protective lenses
- Do not use tanning beds
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 (50 is recommended)
- Always apply sun cream to your body, approximately half an hour before you head outside and again every 2 hours thereafter or immediately after you’ve been in the water
- Always keep infants out of direct sunlight
- Aim to see a skin doctor at least once a year, for a skin check. (your frequency of visits should be based on the amount of time you spend outdoors, your skin complexion and your skin cancer history)
Contact Skin Clinic Robina
Basal Cell Carcinoma can be treated effectively when detected early. If you have noticed the sudden appearance of an unusual mark or sore on your skin that refuses to heal, we strongly advise you to come in and have your skin examined by one of our trained professionals. Likewise, if it’s been a while since you last had a skin check – or if you haven’t ever had one at all, arrange for an appointment with us today.