Skin Cancer Experiences: Basal Cell Carcinoma

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, affecting 3.4 million Americans every year.1 As you may know, there are three common forms of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Other types of skin cancer (such as cutaneous lymphoma, merkel cell carcinoma, and Kaposi sarcoma) make up less than 1% of all skin cancers.2 To learn more about the conditions that affect our skin cancer community, we asked community members what type of skin cancer they’ve experienced. In part one of this skin cancer experiences series, we’re sharing what the community had to say about basal cell carcinoma.

I’ve experienced basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

“Basal cell two times: one on lower left leg and one face by my nose”

“MANY basal cell carcinomas”

“Basal three times”

“Three basal cells (two on back and one on chest)”

“My husband has had many basal cell for 25yrs!”

“Basal cell above my upper lip”

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer; more than 4 million cases are diagnosed in the US each year.3 Along with squamous cell carcinoma, BCC is a form of non-melanoma skin cancer. BCC often develops on the head, neck, and nose because these areas have the most exposure to sun. Most cases of BCC can be treated with a simple surgery in the doctor’s office to remove the tumor. However, once you have had BCC, you have a higher risk of developing it again, so it’s important to limit your UV exposure to reduce your risk of BCC as early as possible.4

Staging BCC

BCC can be grouped into low-risk and high-risk BCC; this process is known as cancer staging. BCC tumors are staged based on the location, size, borders, and microscopic structure of the tumor, as well as your medical history. High-risk BCC tumors may require more extensive treatments, such as Mohs surgery or adjuvant therapy.5

Coping with BCC

Many of our skin cancer community members have experienced BCC. Especially if you have been diagnosed with multiple BCCs, or if you have been diagnosed with a high-risk BCC, you may worry about skin cancer recurrence. If you have experienced BCC, it is important to monitor your skin for recurrence, including frequent self-skin exams and regular annual visits with your doctor. To reduce your risk of recurrence, you should also avoid high doses of UV light (such as tanning beds or direct sunlight), apply and re-apply sunscreen daily, and wear hats and protective clothing to protect your skin from the sun.6

Stay tuned for part two of this series where we share the community feedback about squamous cell carcinoma.

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