Basal Cell carcinoma (BCC) is one of the most common types of skin cancer.
They tend to grow quite slowly and are often found in the head and neck area. BCCs are more common in people with fair skin and sun damage.
What do BCCs look like?
An early basal cell carcinoma can be very subtle, just looking like a scaling patch that will not heal, or a skin coloured bump. As BCCs grow they become more obvious and they may bleed or crust and grow into a larger lump.
How are BBCs treated?
There are a number of ways to treat basal cell carcinomas depending on the area and severity of the skin lesion.
Most surgical excisions for basal cell carcinoma are done in the procedure room at Melbourne City Dermatology, including skin grafts. Occasionally if there is a very large skin cancer we may ask you to see a plastic surgeon for the procedure.
Skin surgery involves numbing the area with local anesthetic. The entire lesion is removed surgically along with a small area of surrounding skin as a safety margin. The site is then closed with stitches and the specimen is sent to pathology to be examined under microscope to ensure the tumour is all clear.
Stitches are removed 1-2 weeks after your surgery and then long term follow up with skin checks is usually recommended to pick up any more skin cancers as early as possible.
PDT is mainly used for patients with small early basal cell carcinomas, or superficial lesions.
A topical photosensitizing agent is applied to the area of treatment. The abnormal cells absorb the chemical. After the cream has been in place for several hours, it is activated by a special light, which then destroys the cancer cells. The treatment selectively destroys only the skin cancer cells whilst causing minimal damage to the surround area. Treatment is usually repeated 2 weeks later to ensure the highest chance of cure.
PDT allows for an excellent cosmetic result with minimal scarring, but is only used for low risk skin cancers. Your dermatologist will discuss if this is an appropriate treatment for you. You will also be quoted the out of pocket costs, as Medicare does not provide any rebate for PDT.
Radiation therapy involves the use of X-ray beams directed to the tumour site. This is useful in conditions that are difficult to manage by surgical treatment, in elderly people and in patients with poor general health.
Using Cryotherapy, the tumour tissue is destroyed through freezing. To achieve total destruction of the tumour cells repeated sessions of treatment may be required.
Cryotherapy is useful in treating superficial BCC, in patients with bleeding problems and patients who have an intolerance to anaesthesia medications.