BCC originates in the top layer of the skin—usually where you've had the most sun exposure—face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders and back. People at greatest risk have fair skin; blond or red hair; blue, green or grey eyes; and spend a lot of time outdoors.
- A sore that bleeds, oozes or crusts and doesn't heal in 2-3 weeks; or that heals and then starts to bleed again.
- A reddish patch or irritated area that may crust over.
- A shiny pearly or translucent pink, red or white bump or nodule (but it may also be tan, black or brown, especially in dark-haired people).
- Tiny blood vessels in or around a sore.
- A scar in an area where you haven't injured yourself.
- A pink growth with a slightly elevated rolled border and a crusted indentation in the center.
- A flat, scaly, brown or flesh-colored patch on your back or chest.
- A scar-like, white, yellow or waxy area that has poorly-defined borders. The skin appears shiny and taut.
Since BCCs can be difficult to distinguish from ordinary sores, the Mayo Clinic recommends having your doctor or dermatologist examine any unusual or persistent sores.
Just because BCC doesn't typically spread to vital organs doesn't mean you can leave it untreated—it will spread into and damage surrounding skin. And once BCCs grow larger, more extensive treatment is required, causing bigger scars. If the lesion is very large you may need a skin graft or flap to facilitate healing and to give a more cosmetically-pleasing appearance. Therefore, it's important to detect and treat BCC at an early stage, when treatment is easier and leaves smaller scars.
Your treatment will be based on the type, size, location and depth of the tumor; your age and general health; and the likely cosmetic outcome. Options include:
- Excisional surgery
- Curettage and electrodesiccation
- Photodynamic therapy
- Laser surgery
- Topical medications
Mohs micrographic surgery is often the treatment of choice for BCC recurrences.
For more information visit The Skin Cancer Foundation, The American Cancer Society, The American Academy of Dermatology and The Mayo Clinic.