How is BCC treated?

How is Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) treated?

Most basal cell carcinomas can be removed with surgery if they are found early, however, the course of treatment for BCC depends on the size and location of the tumour. The patient’s age, medical history and health status also needs to be considered when deciding the course of treatment. Some of these treatment options are listed below. Discuss which treatment options are best for you with your doctor or specialist.

Prescription Medicines

topical chemotherapy for cscc skin cancer

Topical Chemotherapy:

Topical Chemotherapy medicines put directly on the skin as a cream or gel (called topical). 5-fluorouracil 5-FU (Efudex, Actikerall) and imiquimod are chemotherapy medications for the topical treatment of superficial BCCs with cure rates of 80-90% with very low risk for scarring.

Targeted Therapy:

An oral medicine called – vismodegib (Erivedge) is used to treat more severe cases of BCC . It is a pill that you must take every day for the treatment of adult patients with histologically confirmed metastatic basal cell carcinoma or with locally advanced basal cell carcinoma inappropriate for surgery or radiotherapy.

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Surgical and Radiation Treatments

Simple Excision:

This procedure involves your doctor removing the cancerous tissue and a surrounding margin of healthy skin. In some cases, your doctor may recommend removing additional normal skin around the tumour. This is known as a wide excision. Simple excision is a standard procedure for low-risk BCC.

Mohs surgery CSCC

Mohs Surgery:

During this procedure, your doctor removes the cancerous tumour layer by layer, examining each layer under a microscope until no abnormal cells remain. This procedure allows the surgeon to be sure that the entire growth is removed while avoiding taking excessive amount of surrounding healthy skin.

This form of surgery has the highest rate of success in treating BCC, and is often used to treat large, recurrent tumours or tumours located in difficult-to-treat areas such as the face, eyes, ears, nose, hands, feet and shins, sparing as much normal tissue as possible.

radiation therapy cscc

Radiation Therapy:

This treatment uses high-energy beams, to kill cancer cells or slow their growth by damaging the cancer cell’s DNA. Cancer cells whose DNA is damaged beyond repair will stop dividing or die. This may be an option for treating deeper tumours, or those that have a risk of becoming recurrent. It may also be used in people who are not candidates for surgery.

Cryosurgery or Cryotherapy:

Once the tumour has been removed, the base and edges of the biopsy site are treated with liquid nitrogen. This freezes the cancerous cells and burns during treatment, causing the area to blister and then scab over in 1 to 2 weeks.

Electrodesiccation and Curettage (ED and C):

ED and C treatment involves removing the surface of the visible tumour with a scraping instrument (curet) and then searing the base of the wound with an electric needle. This is intended to kill off any remaining cancer cells and help to stop the bleeding.

photodynamic therapy skin cancer

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT):

This treatment combines photosensitizing drugs and light to treat superficial skin cancers. During this procedure, a liquid drug that makes cancer cells sensitive to light is applied to the skin. Following this, a light that destroys the cancer cells is shined on the prepped area.

Did You Know?

In Canada, the estimated life-time cost of a newly diagnosed BCCs, including early disease stages and disease recurrence, in 2011 was of CAN$1.1 million in indirect costs and 0.6 million in intangible costs.

What Does BCC Look Like

Images of Basal Cell Carcinoma

Find Support 

Melanoma Network of Canada offers free support services for Basal Cell Carcinoma

BCC Patient Forum

A place to ask questions or provide insights and information on your own experience with other patients and caregivers.