Skin cancers are among the most common types of cancers. Fortunately, most of them are completely curable.
For your convenience, almost all cases of skin cancers are handled in our office under local anesthesia, with no need for hospitalization or any further treatment.
BASAL CELL CARCINOMA, THE MOST COMMON SKIN CANCER
Each year, about 500000 Americans are affected with Basal Cell Ca.
Indeed, this is the most common cancer in America, and fortunately the most curable cancer, and one that very rarely spreads to the inside of the body.
Basal Cell Ca used to affect the older population mainly. However, over the past few decades the average age of onset of this cancer has decreased as a result people in the middle ages and less commonly in their twenties & thirties are also affected. The reasons for this phenomena are as follows.
Basal Cell Ca is a result of sun damage to the skin. The damaging effects of sunlight are permanent and build up slowly over time. Usually sun exposure and sunbathing produce gradual skin damage even if sunburn is avoided. It takes 10, 20, or more years from the time of sun exposure to the time when signs of sun damage become apparent. Hence, teen-age sun worshippers often pay dearly for their fashionable tans when they reach 40’s or 50’s. The damage done by the sun is not reversible. Recent research has revealed that college educated young people who go on intense weekend vacations in the sun belt are at the greatest risk of developing skin cancer.
As chronic overexposure to sun is the most common cause of Basal Cell Ca, one most commonly finds this tumor on the exposed body parts, i.e. the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, and back.
People with fair skin, light hair and blue, green, or gray eyes are at the highest risk. Naturally, anybody who works outdoors or spends a great deal of leisure time outdoor is also at a higher risk.
You may be able to aid early detection of a Basal Cell Ca if you should notice any of the following 5 most characteristic and typical symptoms:
1-An open sore that bleeds, oozes or crusts, and does not heal after 3 or more weeks.
2-A reddish patch which sometimes crusts, or may itch or hurt or may have no symptoms at other times. Most frequently seen on the chest, shoulders, arms or legs.
3-A smooth growth with an indented center, and a rolled, elevated border. With its slow growth, tiny blood vessels may develop on its surface.
4-A shiny bump, or nodule which is often pink, red or white in color, and is pearly or translucent. At times its color of tan, black or brown may be mistaken for a mole.
5-A scar-like area, with a poorly defined borders and a white, yellow or waxy appearance.
There are many effective ways of treating Basal Cell Ca. The treatment modality needs to be individualized and tailored to the specific situation of each patient.
Excisional surgery is a common modality of treatment in which the entire tumor and an additional piece of skin (safety margin) is removed. The resulted wound is then stitched together.
Microscopically controlled surgery (Moh’s surgery) is used for frequently recurring tumors, and for tumors in difficult locations, i.e. the nose, ears, and eyes. In this method thin layers of the tumor are removed, and checked under microscope. This is repeated until tumor-free tissue is obtained. This method has the highest curable rate, and saves the greatest amount of healthy tissue. Naturally, this method is more time consuming, requires specialized centers, and thus more expensive.
Other forms of treatment of Basal Cell Ca are, scraping the tumor and burning a safety margin around the tumor with an electrical needle (most widely used method by dermatologist); X-ray therapy; laser surgery, and injection of interferon.
People who have a Basal Cell Ca, have a greater chance of getting a recurrence or developing a new tumor. Thus it is very important to have regular check up by a dermatologist.
Finally, to minimize the risk of developing skin cancer, everyone is advised to protect his/her skin from sun’s harmful rays. This may be accomplished by wearing protective clothing and using sun screens with a SPF (Sun Protective Factor) of 30 or above.