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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

Basal Cell Carcinoma

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Getting a Diagnosis

Your doctor will look at your skin for growths. He may also ask you questions such as:

  • Did you spend a lot of time in the sun while you were growing up?
  • Have you had blistering sunburns?
  • Do you use sunscreen?
  • Have you ever used tanning beds?
  • Have you had unusual bleeding spots on your skin that don't heal?

Your doctor will take a sample, or biopsy, of the growth. He'll will numb the area and remove some of the skin. Then he sends it to a lab, where it will be tested for cancer cells.

Questions for Your Doctor

  • What kind of treatments do you suggest?
  • Can drugs help treat my condition?
  • Will I need surgery?
  • How can I keep from getting skin cancer again?

Treatment

The goal is to get rid of the cancer while leaving as small a scar as possible. To choose the best treatment, your doctor will consider the size and place of the cancer, and how long you've had it. He'll also take into account the chance of scarring, as well as your overall health.

These are some of the treatment options your doctor may suggest:

Cutting out the tumor. Your doctor may call this an "excision." First he'll numb the tumor and the skin around it. Then he'll scrape the tumor with a spoon-shaped device. Next he'll cut out the tumor and a small surrounding area of normal-appearing skin and send it to a lab.

If the lab results show there are cancer cells in the area around your tumor, your doctor may need to remove more of your skin.

Scraping the tumor away and using electricity to kill cancer cells. You may hear your doctor call this "curettage and desiccation." First your doctor numbs your skin. Then he uses a curette, a tool that has spoon-like shape to scrape off the tumor. Your doctor controls your bleeding and kills any other cancer cells with an electric needle.

Freezing your cancer cells. This is known as "cryosurgery." Your doctor kills your cancer cells by freezing them with liquid nitrogen.

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