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Basal Cell Cancer

Basal Cell Cancer Causes

Basal cell cancer most likely develops as a result of years of exposure to the sun's UV (ultraviolet) radiation. The process of skin cell death and renewal is controlled by an individual's DNA. In healthy skin, new skin cells normally “push” older skin cells towards the epidermis (the surface of the skin), where they are sloughed off. However, when the DNA has a defect, the individual's old and new skin cells no longer behave as they should. Instead, new skin cells grow without direction and control, thus potentially forming a cancerous tumor known as basal cell carcinoma. Certain environmental factors are also believed to play a role in basal cell cancer development, including: skin damage due to UV exposure, therapeutic radiation, certain chemical toxins, and ingestion of immunosuppressant drugs. In addition, there are a few genetic disorders that predispose individuals to basal cell cancer, such as: Bazex's syndrome, Gorlin's syndrome, and Xeroderma pigmentosum.

Basal Cell Cancer Definition

Basal cell cancer is a frequently occurring type of skin cancer. However, it is also the most easy to treat and has the least likelihood of spreading. In general, basal cell cancer is seldom fatal; however, if untreated, it can cause widespread damage to surrounding bones and tissues.

Basal Cell Cancer Diagnosis

In making a diagnosis of basal cell cancer, initial diagnostic steps may include checking the patient's medical history as well as examining the affected skin area. When basal cell cancer is suspected, a physician usually does a biopsy to examine the affected skin sample under a microscope. A pathologist will then make a diagnosis based on the biopsy.

Basal Cell Cancer Symptoms and Signs

Basal cell cancer is most evident on parts of the body that are exposed to sunlight. It has been commonly observed on the head and neck areas, as well as on the trunk and legs to a lesser degree. It may also develop on other parts of the body that don't typically get any sun exposure. Visible signs of basal cell cancer are: the appearance of a waxy or pearly white bump on the ears, neck, and face; the formation of a large scaly, flat, and brownish patch on the chest or back area; and, in some cases, the appearance of a whitish waxy scar. The waxy bump characteristic of basal cell cancer often shows noticeable blood vessels, and may either bleed or form a depression in its center. In individuals with darker skin coloring, the patch may be brownish or black. The visible patch of basal cell cancer patients can also increase in size, up to 10-15 centimeters in some cases.

Basal Cell Cancer Treatment

Treatment for basal cell cancer depends mostly on the location and/or severity of the malignant tumor. Some of the more common therapies include one or a combination of the following: electrodesiccation and curettage (ED and C) to remove new tumors; surgical excision to cut out the malignant tissue; cryosurgery or freezing the tumor with liquid nitrogen; Moh's surgery to target recurring carcinomas; modern laser surgery as a non-surgical option to removing the tumor; as well as a handful of topical treatments to alleviate some of the symptoms.

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