Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Incidence Risk Factors Symptoms Evaluation Treatment cryosurgery curettage laser surgery moh's surgery questions for doctor specialist surgical excision Home Care taking control warning signs Prevention Outlook Underlying Cause Anatomy

Skin Cancer Basal Cell Treatment

The most common treatment for basal cell carcinoma involves surgical removal of the skin lesion using surgical excision, cryosurgery, electrodesiccation and curettage, or Moh's surgery. The goal is to remove the tumor so that no cancerous tissue remains. Small, superficial basal cell cancers may be treated with topical medications. Radiation therapy may also be used for large lesions.

Treatment for basal cell carcinoma includes a variety of procedures that may be used to remove the skin lesion:

Skin Cancer Basal Cell Cryosurgery

Cryosurgery for basal cell carcinoma involves freezing the skin cancer cells. A small amount of liquid nitrogen is applied to the surface of the lesion. This approach leaves very little scar, but may need to be repeated several times to remove the entire lesion.

Skin Cancer Basal Cell Curettage

Curettage for basal cell carcinoma is commonly performed by dermatologists in the office. The doctor numbs the skin with a local anesthetic and then uses a spoon shaped instrument called a curette. This device scoops the cancer off the skin while a special needle delivers a weak electric current that stops bleeding. This may result in a flattened white scar after the wound heals.

Skin Cancer Basal Cell Laser Surgery

Some superficial skin cancers can be removed with laser surgery, which uses a focused beam of light to destroy cancer cells. This procedure produces heat, but is less painful than conventional surgery. A medication is applied to the skin, in order to sensitize the cancel cells to the laser light. The cells are destroyed when the laser light causes a chemical reaction with the medication.

Skin Cancer Basal Cell Moh's Surgery

In Moh's micrographic surgery, a local anesthetic is used to remove the skin in layers. The doctor shaves off thin layers of skin and then checks them under the microscope for cancer cells. If the cells look normal, no more skin is removed.

Skin Cancer Basal Cell Questions For Doctor

The following are some important questions to ask before and after the treatment of basal cell carcinoma.

Questions to ask before treatment:

  • What are my treatment options?
    • Is surgery an option for me?
  • What are the risks associated with treatment?
  • Do I need to stay in the hospital?
    • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • What are the complications I should watch for?
  • How long will I be on medication?
  • What are the potential side effects of my medication?
  • Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
  • Should I take my medication with food?

Questions to ask after treatment:
  • Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid?
  • When can I resume my normal activities?
  • When can I return to work?
  • What else can I do to reduce my risk for having this problem again?
  • How often will I need to see my doctor for checkups?
  • What local support and other resources are available?

Skin Cancer Basal Cell Specialist

Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat basal cell carcinoma:

Skin Cancer Basal Cell Surgical Excision

In this procedure, the entire skin lesion is removed, along with an amount of healthy tissue around the cancer. This procedure is performed with a scalpel, after using a local anesthetic to numb the skin.

Depending on the size of the lesion and its location, a simple excision is sometimes performed at the time of skin biopsy. This procedure can be performed on all forms of skin cancer.

Continue to Skin Cancer Basal Cell Home Care

Last Updated: May 10, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Skin Cancer Basal Cell References
  1. Bath-Hextall F, Bong J, Perkins W, Williams H. Interventions for basal cell carcinoma of the skin: systematic review. BMJ. 2004 Sep 25;329(7468):705. [15364703]
  2. Christenson LJ, Borrowman TA, et al. Incidence of basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas in a population younger than 40 years. JAMA. 2005 Aug 10;294(6):681-90. [16091570]
  3. Netscher DT, Spira M. Basal cell carcinoma: an overview of tumor biology and treatment. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2004 Apr;113(5):74E-94E. [15060341]
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