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Basal Cell Carcinoma treatment - an overview

Basal Cell Carcinoma can be treated in a number of ways, and the method chosen depends on a number of factors including the type of BCC, where it is, whether it has been removed before and recurred, if it is easy to see, and the preferences of the patient and their general health. Broadly speaking the methods can be divided into medical or surgical treatments; there are a large number of various treatment options, and the correct choice of treatment can be complex and so is often best in the hands of a skin cancer specialist.


Medical treatment for Basal Cell Carcinoma

The medical treatments include cryotherapy (freeze spray), topical chemotherapeutics (skin creams), radiotherapy, or photodynamic therapy (PDT, whereby a cream and light are used to treat the basal cell carcinoma). These treatments may be used for the superficial BCCs, but less so for other types. A newer medication, called Erivedge (Vismodegib), can be used in certain cases of advanced or very complex basal cell carcinoma, but the side effects of this drug may limit its use and so at present is rarely used.


Surgical treatment for Basal Cell Carcinoma

Surgical options for basal cell carcinoma include curettage (scraping the BCC away), conventional surgery, or Mohs surgery. Laser treatment is occasionally questioned as a form of treatment for BCCs but it is not currently a mainstream form of treatment in the UK, and so Mr Tehrani does not recommend its use.

Conventional surgery is the term used for surgery that does not use the Mohs technique, and is generally the most common method of removing a basal cell carcinoma.


How is surgery for BCC performed?

Conventional surgery for basal cell carcinoma is usually performed with local anaesthetic (ie the skin is made numb with you awake), but is occasionally performed under general anaesthetic (ie with you asleep).

The surgeon then removes the basal cell carcinoma, with a margin of normal-looking skin around it (usually 3-4mm from the growth). This is in case the basal cell carcinoma has extensions (similar to 'roots') that cannot be seen by eye.

The wound is then closed or reconstructed, and the basal cell carcinoma is sent to the laboratory. The surgeon will usually see you a few weeks after surgery to check your wound and give the results of the laboratory test.


How successful is surgery for Basal Cell Carcinoma?

The 5 year cure rate for basal cell carcinoma after conventional surgery is around 90-95%. This means that, in 5-10% of cases, the basal cell carcinoma grows back in the area it once was.

Also, in up to 5-10% of cases, the laboratory finds that the basal cell carcinoma has not been fully removed. In this instance, further surgery may be needed, which may be Mohs surgery, or other treatments such as radiotherapy.

For this reason, for a number of basal cell carcinomas, Mohs surgery is seen as the 'gold standard' treatment with a higher cure rate of 99%.

Read more about Mohs surgery here.


Click here for pictures of basal cell carcinomas


This information is provided for general knowledge only and does not replace information provided by healthcare professionals. If you have any concerns of any skin growth, you should consult a medical professional urgently.