Manhattan Dermatology Specialists
  • MIDTOWN 56 W 45TH ST, STE 819 New York, NY 10036
  • UPPER EAST SIDE 983 PARK AVE, STE 1D1 New York, NY 10028
  • UNION SQUARE 55 W. 17TH ST STE 103 New York, NY 10011

Basal Cell Carcinoma

A carcinoma is made up of malignant cells usually found in the skin or on the lining of an internal organ. Carcinomas are serious and must be investigated and treated by a physician trained in oncology and its ramifications. Your NYC dermatologist is the first line of defense in the diagnosis and treatment of basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma, called BCC for short, is the most common form of cancer, affecting an average of four million people each year.

Various Faces of BCC

Basal cell carcinoma affects the outermost layer of your skin. Its marks usually are more dramatic than just simple red dots: you may have pink to skin colored bumps, ulcerated sores, pink scaly patches, or even shiny patches of skin.

The patches on your skin also may appear black or brown, or sometimes with flecks of these darker colors. They may become crusty, ooze or even bleed. They usually don’t heal on their own, or when they do, they reappear rather quickly. You typically won’t feel any pain or discomfort; the only indication of abnormality is the unusual growth.

When presenting as a pink scaly plaque, BCC may be confused with eczema or psoriasis, conditions that can be disfiguring or at least unwelcome. The most important symptom of BCC is that the spot undergoes changes. Tumors grow, and the bigger your spots get, the more extensive treatment you’re going to need.

Diagnosing the Spots

There is only one way to diagnose any type of cancer, including skin cancer — through a biopsy. A top dermatologist in Manhattan performs this simple procedure right in the office. The procedure begins with a small needle used to numb the area in and around the growth.

Your doctor then uses a scalpel to scrape away the entire growth or a section of it. The sample is sent to a laboratory for testing. Treatment for cancer doesn’t begin until you receive the results. If the entire spot was small enough and completely removed during this diagnostic procedure, that may signal the end of your treatment, with the exception of close follow-up.

BCC Treatment Options

Once it’s determined that you do indeed have this common form of skin cancer, your dermatology professional can proceed with treatment. With a variety of options to treat the disease, your New York City specialist can tell you that nearly all basal cell carcinomas are curable. You may have a little scar after it’s been removed, but even that can be treated with a variety of cosmetic skin repair options. The most effective treatments for BCC include:

  • Mohs surgery. This state-of-the-art procedure is one that your Manhattan dermatologist routinely uses. It boasts the highest success rate for treating basal cell carcinomas. Your doctor removes the BCC and a small amount of surrounding skin. If needed, your dermatologist continues to remove small amounts of skin until you are cancer-free. This is the gold standard of treatment for BCC on the head, neck, hands, feet, genitals, and certain BCCs on the trunk, arms, and legs.
  • Surgical excision. The BCC is surgically removed with a predetermined margin of healthy skin. This procedure produces the next highest cure rate compared to Mohs surgery.
  • Electrodessication and curettage. An ED&C is a process that allows your dermatologist to scrape away the offending spot and then use electrocautery to remove any residual cancer cells.
  • Medicated cream. Various prescription-strength creams can be applied at home. You use them to slowly dissolve the cancerous spot. This may be an option for small superficial BCCs in the very early stages or for patients who are not surgical candidates.
  • Photodynamic therapy. In the office, a chemical is applied to the diseased skin and is preferentially taken up by cancerous cells. The chemical is then activated using a special light. This therapy does not affect healthy cells.
  • This treatment is reserved for when your spots can’t be removed surgically. Radiation is rarely used as a treatment for basal cell carcinomas, but if it is, it requires a series of multiple treatments.

Know Your Risks

Like most forms of cancer, basal cell carcinomas don’t discriminate; anyone can develop it. You may be at a higher risk of developing BCC if you:

  • Are light-skinned and have freckles
  • Have green, gray, or blue eyes
  • Don’t tan easily; burn easily
  • Have naturally red or blonde hair

Lifestyle choices and the type of work you do also can increase your risk. Ultraviolet rays, both natural and artificial, are the leading cause of BCC in NYC. You’re at greater risk if you:

  • Regularly use tanning booths
  • Work outdoors
  • Don’t use sufficient sunscreen when you are outside
  • Are over the age of 50
  • Too much exposure over long periods of time to X-rays
  • Hereditary if you have a relative who developed basal cell carcinoma
  • Having had BCC before; which increases your risks exponentially for developing more
  • Are immunosuppressed (HIV, lymphoma), or are taking immune-suppressing drugs to treat conditions like severe arthritis or to prevent organ transplant rejection
  • Certain genetic syndromes, i.e., basal cell nevus syndrome

Prevent Skin Cancer

Age spots, hair loss, and thinning skin may be natural conditions that occur as you age, but basal cell carcinoma is entirely preventable for most people. And if you do receive a BCC diagnosis, know that early treatment gives you the best chance of a 100-percent recovery.

See your NYC dermatologist for regular checkups, learn how to do skin self-examinations, and follow these tips to increase the odds that you will not contract BCC:

  • Stay out of tanning beds
  • Wear 30 SPF sunscreen of higher that is broad-spectrum and water resistant
  • Use SPF 30 lip balm
  • Cover your skin with clothing and hats
  • Sport sunglasses when you’re outside
  • Whenever possible, avoid the sun during its peak between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.
  • Call your Manhattan dermatologist immediately when you see a new spot or growth on your skin that’s bleeding, growing, or changing

Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not definitive medical advice. Please consult dermatologist NYC about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified dermatology doctor or pediatric dermatologist could determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Updated on Mar 7, 2023 by Dr. Susan Bard (Dermatologist), Manhattan Dermatology Specialists Locations: Manhattan Dermatology (Upper East Side) 983 Park Ave, Ste 1D1, NY 10028
(212) 427-8750
Manhattan Dermatology (Midtown) 56 W 45th St, Ste 819, NY 10036
(212) 889-2402
Manhattan Dermatology (Union Square) 55 W 17th St, Ste 103, NY 10011
(212) 378-9984
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY The information on this website is to provide general information. The information on this website does NOT reflect definitive medical advice and self diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a physician for a consultation and examination regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs you may be having. An accurate diagnosis and treatment plan should only be made by your physician in order to exclude a serious condition.
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