While basal cell carcinoma detection begins at home, it should end in a doctor’s office. This form of skin cancer does not have uniform symptoms, which means something that looks as simple as a pimple could be insidious. The only way to a diagnosis or peace of mind is to make an appointment with a dermatologist.


When you first visit a doctor, you will receive a skin check to look for signs of basal cell carcinoma. If the doctor determines that the lesion is potentially cancerous, they will perform a biopsy. This is the only way a doctor can provide a definitive diagnosis, as they will need to examine the tissue on the cellular level. Like other types of skin cancer, there are five stages of basal cell carcinoma, ranging from when the cancer is found only in the original tumor to when the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes and distant organs. In addition to detecting basal cell carcinoma, a biopsy can provide important insights into how the cancer has developed.


Basal Cell Carcinoma Biopsies

To determine whether your growth is cancerous, a doctor will perform a biopsy if it is safe and reasonable to do so. Surgical removal is often the first form of treatment provided to possible basal cell carcinomas. During this procedure, the doctor will cut out the cancerous mass, sometimes including the area of normal-looking skin around it to remove stray cancer cells. This tissue is then examined under a high-powered microscope to make a diagnosis.

If the potential basal cell carcinoma is on a part of the body that cannot withstand excision, or a normal biopsy, a doctor may perform Mohs surgery. This diagnostic and treatment technique removes individual layers of skin, examining as they go, until no skin cancer cells remain. This minimizes damage to the skin and surrounding area.

In addition to aiding with basal cell carcinoma detection, a biopsy will help your doctor measure the extent to which the disease has progressed. During standard excision, the analysis provided by the doctor will indicate the stage of cancer you may have. By examining the skin tissue on a cellular level, your doctor can better evaluate the disease, which will inform potential treatment strategies.


Future Basal Cell Carcinoma Detection and Screening

After an effective basal cell carcinoma treatment, it is important to maintain regular skin checkups, both at home and with your doctor. Careful monitoring will be necessary to ensure the treatment is effective, and people who have a history of skin cancer are at a greater risk of developing it in the future.

Remember that basal cell carcinoma detection should be routine, not a scary. The 5-year recurrence rate for this type of cancer is around 5%, and the recurrence rate is less than 1% for basal cell carcinomas treated with micrographic surgery. Put simply, the risk of recurrence is relatively small, but regular skin maintenance is the only way to remain safe.

Scheduling an appointment with our Mt. Vernon dermatologists, for either diagnosis or a skin check, can help you better understand your individual risk.