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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Basal Cell Carcinoma

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.

Radiation therapy. This treatment uses X-rays to destroy your cancer cells. It's done over several weeks.

Mohs surgery. This is a technique that's named after the doctor who came up with it. Your surgeon removes your tumor layer by layer. He takes out some tissue, then looks at it under a microscope to see if it has cancer cells, before moving on to the next layer.

Your doctor may recommend this surgery if your tumor is:

  • Large
  • In a sensitive area of your body
  • Has been there for a long time
  • Came back after you had other treatments

Creams and pills. Your doctor may suggest some medicine that can treat your basal cell carcinoma. Two creams that you put on your skin are:

You may need to apply these creams for several weeks. Your doctor will check you regularly to see how well they are working.

There is also a pill that your doctor might prescribe called Erivedge (vismodegib). You're most likely to get this drug if your basal cell carcinoma has spread to other parts of your body.

Taking Care of Yourself

After you've been treated for basal cell carcinoma, you'll need to take some steps to lower your chance of getting cancer again.

WebMD Medical Reference

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