Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is a malignant skin tumour that grows into the surrounding tissue but only rarely forms metastases (offshoots). Basal cell carcinoma can look very different and lumps, ulcers and scar-like changes form in the skin. If basal cell carcinoma is detected early and removed, the recovery rates are excellent.

Both spinalioma (squamous cell carcinoma) and basal cell carcinoma are types of white skin cancer.  The term white cancer differentiates these types of skin cancer from melanoma, which is also known as black skin cancer.  Basal cell carcinoma forms from basal cells, which lie under the outermost layer of the skin. Basal cell carcinoma primarily occurs in regions of the skin which are exposed to the sun, i.e. the face, the forearms or the back of the hands. Basal cell carcinoma is one of the most common skin cancers, or even the most common type of cancer there is. Basal cell carcinoma occurs primarily in older people. The number of women and men diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma is more or less the same.

There is no typical clinical picture for basal cell carcinoma. This type of skin cancer can look very different:  Thus, calluses, lumps, ulcers or stubborn eczema can be signs of basal cell carcinoma. Every skin change which lasts longer than usual should be checked by a doctor. The earlier a skin cancer is detected, the better the chances of recovery are.

Suspicious areas are checked with a special magnifying glass (dermatoscope) to diagnose basal cell carcinoma. Tissue samples which are taken under local anaesthetic clarify whether the patient has skin cancer. Other examinations such as an ultrasound or computed tomography are required to determine how extensive the tumour is.

Basal cell carcinoma is treated by removing the tumour. Depending on the size and depth of the tumour, this can be done with surface shaving, laser therapy, cold treatment or surgery. As a basal cell carcinoma almost never forms offshoots, this type of cancer usually heals after the entire tumour has been removed.