Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, and more people develop basal cell carcinoma than any other type. While any cancer diagnosis can feel scary, basal cell carcinoma is very treatable and typically comes with a good prognosis if it’s detected early. Understanding the signs to look for can enable you to get the care you need before the condition progresses.
At the practice of Ali Hendi, MD, in Chevy Chase, Maryland, our skin cancer specialists diagnose and treat all types of the disease, including basal cell carcinoma. Read on to learn more about this form of skin cancer, including common symptoms and ways we can help.
Causes of basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is most often caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays, which come from the sun and from tanning beds. These UV rays damage the DNA within your cells, gradually making way for cancer. So the more time you spend in the sun without protection or in tanning beds, the more likely you will be to develop it.
Other factors that can increase your risk for developing basal cell carcinoma include:
- Arsenic exposure
- Having fair skin and light-colored eyes
- Increasing in age
- Taking immune-suppressing medications
- Having a personal or family history of skin cancer
- Undergoing radiation therapy
- Having a rare genetic disease, such as nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome
Signs of basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma can look a variety of ways, but all cases involve an abnormal growth on the skin. This growth, consisting of cancerous cells, may be:
- Dome-shaped with visible blood vessels
- Black, brown, or pink
- Fragile and bleed easily
- “Pearly” and flesh-colored
- Scaly, with shiny pink or red patches
- Waxy and hard
Getting the care you need
If you have an unusual mole or one that’s changed recently, schedule a skin cancer screening at our office. After your exam, your provider may remove cells from the mole and send them in for a biopsy. From there, we may recommend one of a number of treatments, such as:
- Chemical peels
- Curettage and desiccation
- Laser surgery
- Mohs surgery
- Topical anti-cancer medication
Mohs surgery has an extremely high success rate and leaves as much healthy skin as possible. With this option, thin layers are removed, one at a time, and checked for cancer. This process continues until a layer is removed and there are no more signs of cancer. This option may be ideal if there’s a good chance your cancer will return.
We recommend that patients schedule routine skin exams so we can detect any signs of cancer that you may miss. At these exams, we can also discuss ways to prevent skin cancer, such as improving your sunscreen habits.
To learn more about basal cell carcinoma or to get care, book an appointment online or over the phone with Ali Hendi, MD, today.