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Basal Cell Carcinoma - General Info

Basal cell carcinoma is only one type of skin carcinoma. This is actually the most common type of skin cancer. Fortunately, basal cell carcinoma rarely gives metastases to distant organs and can be cured successfully. However, it is malignant since it leads to destruction of the nearby tissues. Basal cell carcinoma predominantly affects the head and neck and it is also found on other parts of the body exposed to sun such as dorsal surface of the hands.

It is estimated that 3 out of 10 Caucasians develop this tumor within their lifetime. In the United States this tumor accounts for 90% of all skin cancers reported in the southern states while in the northern states its occurrence is approximately 47%. The tumor predominantly affects people over the age of 45 and it is more common in men. The risk for this type of skin cancer is related to excessive exposure to sun and the occurrence of precancerous lesions on the skin.

There are several types of basal cell carcinoma and the most common is nodular basal cell carcinoma. This is a flesh-colored tumor, round or oval in shape covered with small blood vessels. Its border is pearl-appearing. Another type of basal cell carcinoma is the pigmented lesion which is darker comparing to the nodular type and its color ranges from blue to brown and black. This type of basal cell carcinoma resembles malignant melanoma but there is a huge pathohistological difference between these two malignant tumors.

Symptoms and Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma

There is a variety of basal cell carcinoma presentation and in some cases this tumor can be mistaken for some benign skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. Only a well experienced doctor, a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon can set the correct diagnosis after examination of the tumor. Still the definitive conformation is achieved after pathohistological examination of the resected tumor.

The tumor may be in a form of painless nodule. Furthermore, it is highly likely the patients are suffering from basal cell carcinoma if there is an open sore on the skin particularly if it bleeds, oozes, crusts or remains open for three or more weeks. Non-healing sore is a typical early manifestation of basal cell carcinoma. The tumor may also be in a form of a reddish patch and irritated area. The patch may crust, itch or be painful. Basal cell carcinoma can be also in a form of a smooth growth with an elevated, rolled border and a notch in the center. One more form of the tumor is a shiny, pearly or even translucent bump/ nodule of pink, red or white color. If the bump is dark colored it can be mistaken for a mole or malignant melanoma. And finally, basal cell carcinoma can feature with a scar-like area with poorly defined borders. This form of the tumor may be white, yellow or waxy and the affected skin may appear shiny and taut.

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