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Basal cell carcinoma

What is basal cell carcinoma?

This is the most common form of skin cancer that arises in the basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis (top skin layer). Hence the name basal cell carcinoma. It is also called rodent ulcer


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Who commonly gets it?

People with a lot of sun exposure and therefore commonly occurs on parts of the body excessively exposed to sunshine such as the face, ears, scalp.
Older people are often affected.
People with fair skin, blond or red hair.are at a higher risk.
People with blue, green or grey eyes are also more prone.

What to look out for?

They can present as a non healing ulcer or sore that scabs, crusts and bleeds
It can present as a reddish, itchy and crusty patch of skin
It may arise a raised growth with rolled edges and very fine vessels on the surface and commonly a depressed centre
It can look like a scar. Usually the borders are not well defined
Can present as a pearly or translucent mole




Do not forget!

People who have one basal cell carcinoma are at risk of developing another in the future. This can occur at the site of the initial skin cancer or at another part of the body.


Basal cell carcinoma around the nose, eyes and scalp can be quite troublesome


It is necessary to be seen at regular intervals by your plastic surgeon so that any recurrence can be detected early and treated promptly


Basal cell carcinoma can spread to surrounding tissue causing destruction and disfigurement if not treated early. Fortunately when treated early, the cure rates are excellent.

What kind of anaesthetic is used?

The operation is usually carried out under local anaesthetic. However if the area is very large and/or involves deep structures, a general anaesthetic will be used

How is it performed?

An injection is given close to the skin cancer to make the skin numb. Then the area is removed and sent to the laboratory for analysis. The wound can be sutured directly or by re-arranging the nearby skin (local flap) or by transferring tissue form elsewhere to this area (skin graft or free flap).

How long will I stay in hospital?

It is usually a few hours (So patients go home the same day).

What kinds of treatment do I expect in hospital?

Painkillers to achieve adequate pain relief are given to take when the effect of the local injection wears off.

Sometimes prophylactic antibiotics are given.

How long will I be off work?

This depends on the size of the skin cancer removed. Usually a few days to one week off work is enough.