What is a Basal Cell Carcinoma?

Skin cancer of the check. Query basal cell?

What a Basal Cell Carcinoma might look like - mine was a little like this

A Basal Cell Carcinoma is a type of skin cancer – the most common type found in the UK.

They are commonly found on parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, head, neck and ears.  Sometimes they form where burns, scars or ulcers have damaged the skin.

Basal Cell Carcinomas mainly affect fair skinned adults and are more common in men than women.

Risk Factors

Individuals with the highest risk of developing a Basal Cell Carcinoma are:

  • those with freckles or with pale skin and blond or red hair
  • those who have had lost of exposure to the sun due to working outdoors etc
  • people who regularly use sun beds
  • those who have had previous Basal Cell Carcinomas

Tell tale signs

The first sign many get of a Basal Cell Carcinoma is a scan that bleeds occasionally and does not completely heal.  This is exactly how mine was – nothing more than the size of a pin head and just a frustrating scab that wouldn’t go away. I wasn’t particularly concerned about it but mentioned it to a dermatologist when he was checking another mole that I thought might have been troublesome.  Upon looking at that and a hard white lump in the crease of my nose – which I’d had for a long time and, again, was not concerned about – my dermatologist recommended a biopsy to check for a potential Basal Cell.

Other potential signs of a Basal Cell Carcinoma are a central crater surrounded by a pearl-like ring and lumpy, shiny nodules crossed by small blood vessels.


Generally a small biopsy will be taken and the cells examined under a microscope.


There are various successful treatments for Basal Cell Carcinomas.  Due to where it was, mine was removed by Mohs Micrographic Surgery (A WORD OF WARNING IF YOU FOLLOW THIS LINK – IT TAKES YOU TO A VIDEO DEMONSTRATION OF MOHS. NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED!!). This is a very specialised type of intervention, is the most effective and advanced treatment for skin cancer today and ensures maximum tissue retention.  It involved removing the skin cancer layer by layer and examining it under a microscope until no further cancer calls were detected around the lesion perimeter.  The surgery was painless and performed under local anaesthetic, with the consultant cutting away a small skin sample, sending me off to the waiting room whilst the tissue was examined and then calling me back in to remove a further layer.  This all took three or four hours, with the vast majority of that time spent waiting in the waiting room with a dressing on my nose.

Take a look at The British Association of Dermatologists website for some clear information on Basal Cell Carcinoma  (BCC) and different types of treatment available.  I’ve also found this presentation which gives a good overview of Basal Cell Carcinoma, including the different types of BCC. 

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  1. October 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm

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