There are several options for basal cell carcinoma treatment, but a doctor can determine which is best for your diagnosis and biopsy results. This form of skin cancer is not considered to be aggressive, but it manifests uniquely in every person. After basal cell carcinoma detection, a doctor will analyze and evaluate how the cancer presents in your body, then recommend a personalized treatment plan.
With treatment, basal cell carcinoma is remarkably survival. Though the most common form of all cancers in the United States, only around 3,000 people die of basal cell carcinoma each year. This form of skin cancer spreads slowly and only rarely metastasizes into the lymph nodes and distant organs. Still, if you have the disease, it is important to receive treatment quickly.
Many basal cell carcinoma treatments are similar to those provided for other forms of skin cancer. If you think a skin growth is carcinoma or you’re waiting on biopsy results, here are some of the treatment options you may discuss with a dermatologist at our Mt. Vernon clinic.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Removal and Biopsy
Basal cell carcinoma is most often treated with surgery. Options typically include surgical excision, wherein the doctor cuts out the cancerous lesion, and Mohs surgery, when the doctor removes the cancer layer by layer, examining each under a microscope until no cancerous cells remain. Often, this type of surgery is the only treatment necessary.
If a patient is not a good candidate for surgery, or if the lesion is on a delicate patch of skin, other removal treatments may be recommended. Curettage and electrodessication, a popular technique, involves scraping the lesion from the skin and searing the cancer with an electric needle. Cryotherapy, or freezing the cancer off, is also an option for treating superficial skin lesions.
If the initial biopsy results indicate that the cancer has spread, even to the skin immediately outside of the tumor, a more invasive biopsy or additional treatment may be ordered.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Treatment
If the doctor thinks the cancer has spread beyond the localized tumor, they will recommend a more extensive follow-up treatment. This will be necessary to kill remaining cancer cells, especially those that might have spread to distant organs. Some types of basal cell carcinoma treatments are designed to kill cancer cells, while others are required to slow or stop the spread. Your doctor will work with you to determine which treatment is best suited to your diagnosis. While it is very rare for basal cell carcinoma to warrant extensive treatment, remember that it is possible for the cancer to spread.
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy is a good option for patients who have basal cell carcinoma in places where surgery may be difficult, such as the eyelids, nose, or ears. This procedure uses high-energy x-rays or particles to kill cancer cells.
- Topical Chemotherapy: Because basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads, systemic chemotherapy is rarely necessary. Instead, topical chemotherapy is used. This anti-cancer medicine is applied directly to the skin rather than being injected into a vein. This treatment kills tumor cells on or near the skin’s surface, but it cannot reach cells deeper in the skin.
- Immunotherapy: This basal cell carcinoma treatment is used to treat very superficial tumors, or those that have not grown too deeply into the skin. The drugs used in immunotherapy boost the body’s immune response, allowing the body to attack the cancer on its own.
- Topical Treatments: Basal cell carcinoma can respond well to laser surgery, wherein a beam of light is used to vaporize cancer cells. Chemical peeling may also be an effective treatment for relatively small cancers.
- Targeted Therapy: If basal cell carcinoma cannot be cured with surgery or radiation, or if the disease has spread to other parts of the body, targeted drugs, like vismodegib (Erivedge) or sonidegib (Odomzo) can be used to shrink or slow the cancer’s growth.
Schedule an Appointment
Regardless of your place in the basal cell carcinoma journey – whether you are about to see a dermatologist for the first time or have had a recurrence – you will need to build a relationship with a medical professional. Basal cell carcinoma treatment is often fast and noninvasive, but if you want to remain healthy, it helps to have a good relationship with a dermatologist. With skin cancer, having a doctor who knows your unique skin and medical history is invaluable. With early detection of basal cell carcinoma symptoms, treatment outcomes are usually positive. Schedule a visit with our Mt. Vernon medical dermatology office today to get started.