The Complete Guide to Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that affects the basal cells. These are the cells that line the epidermis. Their role is to replenish the skin with new cells as the old ones get removed. When you have this type of cancer, you notice tumors on the surface of your skin. The tumors can take the appearance of a sore, scar, red patch or bump.
Unlike most cancers, basal cell carcinoma doesn’t metastasize or spread to other parts of the body. However, there are some cases where the victims have been disfigured. In rare cases when basal cell carcinoma spreads to other parts of the body, it can be fatal.
Given that more than 4 million people are diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma each year in the US alone, this is one of the most common types of skin cancers known.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Symptoms
Basal cell carcinoma generally forms on the parts of your body that are exposed to the sun frequently. This means that it can happen on your arms, scalp, neck, shoulders, ears or the face. There are some rare instances where it can also develop on parts of the body that are not usually exposed to the sun.
Other than the fact that you might notice changes in the appearance of your skin, basal cell carcinoma is painless. Take note that there are different types of basal cell carcinoma, and each of these has unique characteristics as shown below:
Superficial Basal Cell Carcinoma. You will notice a red patch on your skin. The patch is scaly and flat. Over time, the patch becomes raised as it grows, especially on the chest or your back.
Pigmented Basal Cell Carcinoma. This forms like a black, blue or brown lesion on the skin, with a raised translucent border.
Non-Ulcerative Basal Cell Carcinoma. This tumor forms a bump on your skin. It is either pink or white. You can see the blood vessels underneath the tumor as it is translucent. It forms mostly on the face, ears, and the neck, and is very common. It has the tendency to bleed, rapture or scab.
Basosquamous Basal Cell Carcinoma. This form of basal cell carcinoma resembles squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. It is a rare type of cancer but has a high likelihood of metastasizing.
Morpheaform Basal Cell Carcinoma. This is a rare form of basal cell carcinoma. The lesion looks like a scar, without a defined border. It has a white, waxy appearance. It is an invasive form of cancer and can result in disfiguration.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Causes
Basal cell carcinoma, like most skin cancers, are formed by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays or the sun. They can also be caused by periodic intense exposure to the sun, which results in sunburn.
There are other rare factors that might cause basal cell carcinoma, including the following:
- Radiation exposure
- Arsenic exposure
- Chronic inflammatory skin conditions
- Complications from tattoos, burns, scars, vaccinations, and infections
Once you have basal cell carcinoma, there is always a high likelihood that it might recur later on in life.
There are a number of factors that put you at risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, including the following:
- Predominant light skin
- Genetic history of basal cell carcinoma
- Skin that burns or freckles easily
- Inheriting disorders that increase your risk of skin cancer, like disorders of the endocrine glands, nervous system, and the skin
- People with light colored eyes, fair skin, blonde or red hair
- Radiation therapy
- Severe sunburn in your childhood
- Chronic exposure to the sun
- Living in a sunny area or in a high latitude area
- Using immunosuppressant drugs after surgery
Diagnosing Basal Cell Carcinoma
You need to see a dermatologist so they can confirm whether the growth on your skin is basal cell carcinoma or not. They will look for discoloration on the skin. Your dermatologist will want to know whether you have a history of skin cancer in the family, and will also check your medical history.
The dermatologist will be looking for concerning growths or discoloration. A biopsy of your skin will be done. This is done by injecting a numbing agent into your skin so they can take a sample for testing. If you have skin cancer, the dermatologist will tell you after this.
In case you have basal cell carcinoma, your dermatologist will remove the growth. If your basal cell carcinoma is aggressive, they will need a biopsy of the lymph nodes, so they can check for metastasis.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Treatment
Effective treatment for basal cell carcinoma means removing the tumor. Some of the factors your doctor takes into consideration before recommending a treatment procedure include the size of the lesion, the type of basal cell carcinoma you have, and the location where the lesion forms. The following are some of the treatment options that are available:
This procedure is used for most cancers that do not extend deep into the skin. The doctor uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill the cancer cells. You might experience nerve damage in the application area, and even lose sensation for a while.
Anesthesia is provided for this procedure, though no cutting is done. The growth will crust over or blister. It is a procedure often used for basal cell carcinoma patients who have bleeding disorders. It is a highly effective treatment procedure, with up to 90% success rate.
The doctor uses a scalpel to remove the tumor and the border of normal skin surrounding it. You will need stitches to cover the surgical area. It is recommended for people who have advanced basal cell carcinoma, especially that which can advance to other parts of the skin that were not originally affected. You might have a small scar after the cut, but this procedure has a 95% success rate.
Curettage and Electrodesiccation
In this case, the growth on your skin will be scraped off with a curette. The doctor uses an electrocautery needle to burn the tumor site. It is very effective and is recommended for small lesions. However, it might not be a good option for basal cell carcinoma in high-risk areas, or an aggressive carcinoma. You will have a scar after the treatment, and it has a 95% success rate.
Mohs Micrographic Surgery
In this procedure, the thin layer of tissue that contains the tumor is removed. The doctor will freeze this and map it under a microscope. This is done on the cancerous section. It is a procedure that protects healthy tissue and has a success rate of 99%. It is advisable for tumors that occur in places that are highly visible like the neck or your face, or for large tumors.
Recovery from Basal Cell Carcinoma Treatment
More often, the treatments for basal cell carcinoma are minor, and you should recover in a short while. You might experience pain at the point of excision or surgery for a while until it heals. You can also expect to have a scar at the point of treatment. In order to manage the scars and reduce their appearance, the doctor will provide some after-treatment instructions that you should follow keenly.
You should always keep the excision site as clean as possible. To help with this, apply ointments like Neosporin and Vaseline several times a day, and cover the site with a bandage. To help the would heal faster, try and keep it moist.
Basal cell carcinoma has a very high chance of recurrence. For this reason, take measures to protect the skin from unnecessary UV exposure.
Home Remedies for Basal Cell Carcinoma
Millions of people across the globe have basal cell carcinoma. This is primarily because a lot of people do not realize the risk that exposure to the harsh rays of the sun puts their skin through. There are some natural healers that most people have in the house but never realize how important they are, or that they can save your life. Here are some home remedies that might help you manage or heal basal cell carcinoma.
Hydrogen Peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide works on the affected part through oxygenation. Hydrogen peroxide is an oxygen agent. The oxygen creates an environment where the carcinoma cells will die a natural death.
Soak a cotton swab in hydrogen peroxide then rub it on the cancerous part until it saturates and turns white. Soak another cotton swab in hydrogen peroxide and cover the cancerous part with it. leave it on until it dries. This treatment should be done once a day.
Vitamin C. This is one of the most effective remedies for skin cancer. It helps the body get rid of the cancerous cells, while the normal cells are left intact. There are antioxidants in Vitamin C that do not just protect your skin, but the whole body.
To use this, prepare a mixture of Vitamin C and dimethyl sulfoxide. Apply this to the parts of the body that are affected several times a day for around 3 weeks.
Baking Soda. This is an alkaline agent, making it an effective remedy for basal cell carcinoma. It changes the pH of the affected part of the body, making it difficult for cancer cells to keep growing. As a result, it helps you heal.
You can prepare a mixture of baking soda with water or coconut oil, and apply the paste on the cancerous part of the body one or two times a day. Leave it on until it dries.
Vitamin E. There are studies that have shown a regular intake of Vitamin E helps to protect the skin from harmful UV rays. If possible, take Vitamin E each day. Your doctor can also advise you on the exact amount that you should consume daily.
Apple Cider Vinegar. Apple cider vinegar features on this list because of the nutrient capacity it contains. Other than basal cell carcinoma, it is a useful component in your home remedy arsenal given that it contains potassium and lots of enzymes that your body needs. The nutrients in apple cider vinegar help the body regenerate the soft tissues. Apple cider vinegar also changes the pH level of the affected part in the same way that baking soda does, making it easier for the body to fight basal cell carcinoma.
You can take apple cider vinegar as a topical application or an oral supplement. Swab the affected parts of your skin daily. Apart from that, you can soak a cotton swab in apple cider vinegar and apply it on the affected part, leaving it to dry.
Another option is to prepare a mixture of apple cider vinegar with distilled water, which you can drink at least once a day.
Vegetables. If you have not been eating a lot of vegetables, you need to change your diet to include veggies to help you fight basal cell carcinoma. Some of the best components that you can consider include cabbages, hot pepper, sea vegetables, soybeans, beans, whole grains, rosemary, grapes, garlic, tomatoes, green tea, citrus fruits, onions and licorice roots.
These are foods that contain good antioxidants which help in boosting your immune system and fighting cancer.
Folic Acid. Doctors recommend that taking between 400 and 800 micrograms of folic acid daily will help you treat basal cell carcinoma.
Selenium. A lot of studies have shown in the past that oral or topical use of selenium can help the body reduce the free radicals in the body, hence reduce your risk of getting basal cell carcinoma. It is, therefore, a preventive mechanism. If you already have basal cell carcinoma, you need around 100 micrograms of selenium daily.
Vitamin B – Complex. This vitamin has always been effective in treating skin cancers. In case you are already suffering from basal cell carcinoma, 100 milligrams of this vitamin will help you heal faster.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids. If your diet does not contain foods that have Omega-3 fatty acids, it is time you considered including them in your meal plans. At the same time, reduce your consumption of food that is rich in Omega-6 fatty acids. Try and stay away from corn oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil, and instead increase your consumption of fish oil and olive oil.
According to experts, it is safer for you to use butter that is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, than using corn oil for your meals. The reason why you are advised against using Omega-6 fatty acids is that they usually make the condition worse, and increase the size of your tumor. Try to eat fish once a week, and where possible, prepare your food with olive oil.
Zinc. Zinc has always been one of the natural ingredients useful in treating basal cell carcinoma. Make sure you eat around 50 milligrams a day.
Pancreatic Enzymes. You should take these enzymes between your meals. When released into the bloodstream, they break down scar tissue and help the body fight basal cell carcinoma. If you have basal cell carcinoma, chances are high that your pancreas might not be working properly. The enzymes fight basal cell carcinoma by helping the pancreas digest proteins.
Frankincense Oil. This is another natural healer that can help you fight basal cell carcinoma. There are a lot of studies that have been carried out, and proven that it has so many uses. It kills the cancerous cells on your skin, bladder, and breast. There are more than 15 active agents in frankincense oil that kill the cancer cells. It also helps you reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Black Raspberry Seed Oil. Raspberry is loaded with antioxidants which help in fighting cancer. Other than supporting your immune system and killing the cancer cells, raspberry seed oil also acts on the tumor. This is why it is one of the most recommended remedies for basal cell carcinoma.
Myrrh Oil. Myrrh oil is one of the best natural healers available. Other than basal cell carcinoma, it is also useful in treating lots of other diseases, including prostate cancer and breast cancer. It is safe for application on your skin. In case you have sensitive skin, you should apply it directly to the tumor with a carrier oil like coconut oil.
Eggplant Extract. According to experts in the field, eggplant has around 10% concentration of solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides, which are effective in treating basal cell carcinoma, keratosis, and squamous cell carcinoma.
This component is also present in potatoes, tobacco, bell pepper, and tomatoes, hence their use as natural remedies for basal cell carcinoma. To prepare this remedy, mix a tablespoon of organic eggplant extract cream with 5 ml myrrh oil, or frankincense oil, or black raspberry oil. You can also add a few drops of essential oils to this mixture, then apply it two times a day to the affected part of the skin.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Complications
Recurrence is the most common complication that you might experience from basal cell carcinoma. Even after you have been treated successfully, basal cell carcinoma might still appear, and in the same place. If it was not treated properly or as soon as possible, basal cell carcinoma can cause disfiguration.
Having basal cell carcinoma means you are at risk of developing other forms of skin cancer. It gets worse because you can develop melanoma, which can be fatal if it metastasizes.
There are some rare forms of basal cell carcinoma that are so aggressive, they can affect your body beyond your skin. These forms can destroy the muscles, nerves, and bones. In even rare instances, basal cell carcinoma can metastasize and affect body organs, increasing the risk of fatality.
Preventing Basal Cell Carcinoma
You can take precautionary measures to prevent basal cell carcinoma. One of these is to limit your exposure to UV light or avoid it all together. During the brightest times of the day, try and avoid direct sunlight, especially lying on tanning beds.
Even if you are stepping outside for a few minutes, always use sunscreen regularly. Make sure the sunscreen product you are using has an SPF rating no less than 15. To protect your skin, put on hats and lightweight clothing. For newborns, keep them out of the sun when necessary. Remember that sunscreen should never be used on infants under 6 months.
The earlier basal cell carcinoma is detected, the sooner you can get treatment and reduce the level of scarring that you will have when the tumor is removed. Try and get a skin cancer screening from your doctor or dermatologist annually. Make sure you carefully examine your skin from head to toe frequently and consult your doctor if you notice any changes on the skin.
Maintaining a Healthy Skin
The skin is the largest organ in the body. A healthy skin offers many layers of protection. However, when compromised, the ability to offer protection is affected. You should look into ways of keeping your skin healthy so that it can continue protecting you.
Proper skin care requires a few simple changes to your normal routine. More often, if you are sick or suffering from any condition, the skin is the first place where the effects will be felt. A lot of things can be deduced from your skin about your health.
The following are some of the things that a healthy skin will help your body achieve:
- Protection from pollutants, viruses, bacteria and chemical substances
- Regulating body temperature
- Maintaining the body’s fluid balance
- Controlling moisture loss
- Protection from UV rays
The skin also helps you recognize sensations of pain and warns you of impending danger. There are a lot of factors that affect the skin, including hormones, genetic factors, natural aging and conditions like diabetes. While you might not be able to change or influence things like genetics, there are external factors that you can influence, hence their impact on your skin. The following are some simple ideas that you should look into, which will help you maintain a healthy, flawless skin.
There are lots of products out there that promise to keep your skin looking healthy, young and radiant, fighting off all signs of aging. However, these moisturizers only work on the surface of the skin. Things like aging take place at a cellular level.
The food you eat is just as important as the products that you will apply on your skin. A good, healthy diet can help you improve the quality of your skin from within. Therefore, the first step towards a healthy skin would be to keep a healthy diet.
There are lots of healthy foods that you can include in your meal plans. Mangoes, for example, have antioxidant properties, which help to protect the collagen on your skin. Tomatoes help in preventing cancer, reducing the risk after UV rays exposure by up to 50%.
You should try and eat tomatoes daily. Other than that, tomato paste can also protect you against sunburn. Tomatoes are red in color because of the presence of lycopene. This ingredient also helps protect you from the risks of UV exposure.
Olive oil is highly recommended, given that it reduces your risk of cumulative damage to the skin, including dark spots, wrinkles, and discoloration, which are linked to prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Stress is one of the silent killers today. Pay attention to your skin especially before an important event. If you notice a pimple on your face, this could be a sign of stress. According to scientists, people who are under a lot of stress tend to develop skin problems.
Apart from that, people who are under intense stress are often at a high risk of developing severe acne. Stress increases the production of sebum in the body. Sebum is that oily substance that blocks the skin pores, thereby making the acne worse.
Reduced stress levels can help you have clearer skin. In case you live a high-stress lifestyle, consider engaging in relaxing techniques like meditation, yoga and tai chi.
Moisturize the Skin
Moisturizers are important in that they keep the top layer of your skin hydrated, and help to seal in the moisture. Moisturizing products have humectants which attract and retain moisture on your skin and smoothen the spaces between your skin cells.
In order to keep your skin properly moisturized, preventing dry, itchy and red skin, you should do the following:
- Moisturize right after showering to lock the moisture in
- Keep your showers or baths no longer than 5-10 minutes. Intense washing removes the oily layer of the skin, leaving it dry
- Instead of hot water, use warm water
- Use a fragrance-free cleanser instead of harsh soap
- Avoid abrasive scrub brushes, washcloths, and bath sponges because they damage the surface of your skin
- Use a towel to pat your skin dry after showering
- After showering, use creams, lotions, and ointments soon after drying off, to trap moisture
- To reduce the risk of irritation, use creams or ointments instead of lotions
- Do not scratch your skin. Instead, use a cold compress to control the itch
- Put on non-irritating clothes. Or use cotton or silk clothes underneath wool and other rough materials.
- Try and use hypoallergenic laundry detergent
- Do not sit too close to a fireplace or any other source of heat that can dry your skin
If you do not get relief from these simple procedures, get in touch with your dermatologist so they can advise you on specific treatments for your case.
Smoking is not just bad for your lungs but it’s bad for your skin too. Smoking affects your facial skin and makes your blood vessels on the surface of the skin narrower. Narrow blood vessels reduce the flow of blood, making sure the skin does not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
When you stop smoking, you can improve the health of your skin, and prevent the formation of wrinkles. Elastin and collagen provide elasticity and strength that the skin needs. Smoking affects the elasticity of your skin by reducing the production of collagen and breaking down collagen.
Try and get uninterrupted sleep as often as you can. People who get enough sleep barely experience the formation of dark circles around their eyes. This will help to improve your skin tone. Besides, most of the products you need to improve your skin will cost you. However, sleeping is free and yields amazing benefits not just to your skin, but your health in general.
Even if you have a very busy schedule, try and get the recommended sleep hours a day. This will help you get and maintain a good complexion. According to the Natural Sleep Foundation, adults need 7 – 9 hours of sleep a day. If you continuously get less than this, you will be harming yourself.
Some of the common risks of chronic sleep deprivation include immune deficiency, obesity, cancer, and diabetes. According to experts, proper quality sleep can have a positive impact on aging and your skin function.
People who do not sleep well usually experience premature aging and their skin lacks the ability to repair itself properly at night, especially when faced with environmental stressors like exposure to the sun.
When sleeping, the body attempts to repair and regenerate blood, muscles, skin and brain cells. If you do not get sufficient sleep, you will not be able to produce sufficient amounts of collagen, yet collagen is important in preventing the skin from sagging.
Remember that keeping a healthy and vibrant skin does not always mean you have to spend on expensive products, like lotions and creams. These simple things will go a long way in protecting your skin and keeping it radiant.
While on the subject of a healthy skin, remember to stay hydrated. Drinking the recommended glasses of water in a day will go a long way in helping your skin stay healthy.
Basal cell carcinoma is manageable. The only time you might struggle with it is if you do not detect it early enough, and realize when it has spread to other parts of the body. Manageable cancers like this one should not weigh you down. With early detection, you can seek treatment as soon as possible and manage the symptoms better. While there is a risk of recurrence in the future, who knows, with early detection, treatment, and management, your basal cell carcinoma might just go away for good.
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