Basal Cell Carcinoma is a very commonly occurring type of skin cancer, which affects tens of millions of people worldwide every year.
This specific skin cancer, triggered mostly by UV radiation, originates in the basal cells present in skin, which function by synthesizing a new layer of cells once old cells begin to wither and die off.
Basal cell carcinoma presents in the form of transparent patches on skin, particularly in the regions constantly exposed to the sun, namely the head, face and neck. It is a mild form of skin cancer unlike melanoma, which is severe. Also Read: Melanoma: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
The main trigger factor for basal cell carcinoma is a genetic mutation in the DNA of the basal cells in the skin. The skin is made up of three layers – the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. The epidermis which is the outermost layer of skin that is exposed to direct sunlight, comprises the basal cells at the bottom.
In a healthy individual, the new cells being synthesized by the basal layer will eventually push out the older layer of cells towards the external surface, where they undergo natural cell death, due to deterioration of cell membranes.
However, in case a person is affected by basal cell carcinoma, the basal cells multiply rapidly on skin and old cells do not die, but continue to proliferate, giving rise to tumorous lump formations on the surface of exposed skin. This has the appearance of a lesion.
The distinguishing symptoms of basal cell carcinoma consist of:
- A pearly white, translucent bump on skin, through which blood vessels can be seen prominently
- An irregularly shaped brown, blue or black coloured spot
- Flaky, peeling and scaly patches of skin, with hyperpigmentation
- A light-coloured, waxy scar-like lesion
Certain factors predispose an individual to contract basal cell carcinoma such as:
- Prolonged exposure under sunlight
- Direct contact with toxic metals like arsenic
- Treatment for any prior cancers, namely radiation therapy or chemotherapy
- Having a very fair skin complexion
- Parents, siblings or close family members who also have basal cell carcinoma
Diagnosis And Treatment
The doctor specializing in cancer treatment and skin conditions, an oncologist or a dermatologist, will first conduct an extensive physical analysis to examine the skin of the patient, as well as ask them questions pertaining to their family medical history, to find out if any close relative has also had basal cell carcinoma.
A tissue sample of skin is also carefully excised, which is then analysed under a microscope, to determine if any abnormal lumps or inflammation has occurred in any region. Also Read: 8 Signs Of Cancer: Early Detection Saves Lives
Once the diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma is confirmed, the doctor initiates the appropriate treatment measures, depending upon the extent of spread of the tumour, as well as its size.
The most common medical treatment for basal cell carcinoma is surgery. This can be done using two types of procedures:
In this protocol, the surgeon cuts off the portion of skin affected by cancer cells, along with a few neighbouring healthy cells.
Here, the doctor precisely removes only the tumorous skin tissues, layer by layer, so as to ensure that no harm is caused to the surrounding healthy skin cells.
These treatment strategies guarantee, in the majority of cases, that the basal cell carcinoma will not recur and assure the patient of a complete recovery.
The onset of basal cell carcinoma, can, however, be prevented by taking a few precautions. Avoiding the use of tanning beds, staying away from the sun when the rays are fiercest post noon, using sunscreen before going out and wearing clothes, scarves and hats, to cover the hands, face, head and neck are some of the ways by which basal cell carcinoma can be averted.