What you should know about Basal Cell Carcinoma explained by Alexandria, VA Dermatologist
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. It is estimated that over four million cases are diagnosed in the United States every year, and that rate is rising. People with all skin types can be affected by this type of skin cancer, however, it is most common in older individuals with fair skin. It is important to know the causes, symptoms, and risk factors so you can seek treatment if you have a suspicious spot on your skin. Braun Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center in Alexandria, VA specializes in providing personalized, compassionate dermatological care and prioritizes staying on top of cutting-edge skin cancer diagnosis and treatment options.
What is basal cell carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinomas are cancerous lesions that form in the basal cells of the skin. The outermost layer of your skin is called the epidermis, and basal cells form a lining in the deepest layer of the epidermis. A basal cell carcinoma forms when the DNA of the cells is damaged causing the cells to grow out of control.
While basal cell carcinomas rarely spread to other locations beyond the initial tumor site, they should be taken seriously, as they can cause permanent disfigurement if not diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Working with a Board-certified dermatologist who is highly skilled in removing these cancerous lesions can help minimize scarring and recurrence after a basal cell carcinoma has been removed.
Signs of basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinomas can look like:
- A pimple that does not resolve after 2 months
- Open wounds that don’t seem to heal or keep returning
- Shiny or pearly bumps on the skin that may be pink or red with brown, black, or blue spots
- Scar-like tissue that is firm, flat, pale, or yellowed
- Pinkish growths that look like a donut (raised along the edges and lower in the middle)
- Pink patches which may be itchy or asymptomatic
These cancerous growths can often bleed after sustaining a minor injury, such as when you shave over them. If a cut from a razor reappears numerous times at the same site, it may be a basal cell carcinoma.
Causes and risk factors
By far, the leading cause of basal cell carcinomas is over-exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. The UV rays cause damage to your skin cells’ DNA, which can lead to the irregular, uncontrolled growth of the cells. Basal cell carcinomas typically appear on areas of the skin that are regularly exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, top of the chest, and head, but they can form in any location on the body.
There are several risk factors for developing a basal cell carcinoma, including:
- Older age
- Light-colored skin
- History of sun exposure or tanning bed use
- History of UV treatments for psoriasis
- Prior history of skin cancer
- Family history of skin cancer
There are multiple different treatment options for basal cell carcinoma. The Board-certified dermatologists at Braun Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center have great expertise in skin cancer treatment and can help guide you in deciding which treatment is right for you. Common treatment options include:
- Mohs surgery: This is a precise surgical technique that is used to remove the tumor layer by layer. It has the highest cure rate of all treatments for basal cell carcinomas, but it is not always the right treatment for every basal cell carcinoma. It is most typically used on the head or other body areas where preservation of every millimeter of skin is crucial, such as hands, feet, or shins. At Braun Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center, both Dr. Martin Braun and Dr. Marisa Braun are fellowship-trained Mohs surgeons.
- Excisional surgery: This is a procedure used to surgically remove the carcinoma from the skin, along with a safety margin of normal appearing skin around the lesion to ensure complete removal. While the margins are not checked immediately as they are in Mohs, excision is often the right choice for basal cell carcinomas on the trunk, arms and legs.
- Radiation therapy: This may be used if a patient is not a good surgical candidate due to other health problems or tumor characteristics.
One of the most important things to do to protect yourself from future basal cell carcinomas is to shield yourself from further sun exposure. This includes wearing a high-quality, broad spectrum sunscreen every day – rain or shine. Wearing protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and avoiding the sun during its peak hours mid-day are also important for protecting your skin from further damage.
Experienced, compassionate care at Braun Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center
We understand that a diagnosis of skin cancer can be frightening, but at Braun Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center, we are here to guide you every step of the way.
If you have a suspicious spot on your skin, need an annual skin check, or have been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma or other skin cancer, Braun Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center is here to help you. You can reach our Alexandria, VA office at 571-449-2555 or our DC location at 202-816-7557 to schedule an appointment.
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Braun Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center
Braun Dermatology is home to a team of highly qualified, experienced providers, including board-certified dermatologists, physician assistants, and master estheticians. Every team member relies on advanced training and expertise to provide optimal care. Patients in and around Washington, DC, and Alexandria, VA, trust Braun Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center for their reliable, evidence-based approach to dermatology.