Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
A number of treatments are available for basal cell carcinoma. What treatment is best for you depends on the type, location and severity of your cancer. Some commonly used basal cell carcinoma treatments include:
- Electrodesiccation and curettage (ED and C). ED and C involves removing the surface of the skin cancer with a scraping instrument (curette) and then searing the base of the cancer with an electric needle. This treatment is often used for small cancers located on your legs and ears. ED and C can leave an oozing, crusty scab that heals over several weeks.
- Surgical excision. In this procedure, your doctor cuts out the cancerous tissue and a surrounding margin of healthy skin. In some cases, you may have a wide excision, which involves removing additional normal skin around the cancer. A surgical excision may be an option if you have a large basal cell carcinoma. To minimize scarring, especially on your face, consult a doctor skilled in skin reconstruction.
- Freezing. This involves killing cancerous cells by freezing them with liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery). It's useful for cancers that are very thin and don't extend deep into the skin.
- Mohs surgery. During the procedure, your doctor removes the cancer cells layer by layer, examining each layer under the microscope until no abnormal cells remain. This allows the entire growth to be removed without taking an excessive amount of surrounding healthy tissue. This is an effective treatment for recurring basal cell carcinomas and those that are large, deep, fast-growing, morpheaform or on your face.
- Topical treatments. Basal cell carcinoma that is superficial and doesn't extend very far into the skin may be treated with creams or ointments. The drugs imiquimod (Aldara) and 5-fluorouracil are used for several weeks to treat certain basal cell carcinomas that are limited to the surface of the skin.
- Premalignant and malignant nonmelanoma skin tumors. In: Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Edinburgh, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-7234-3541-9..X0001-6--TOP&isbn=978-0-7234-3541-9&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed Jan. 14, 2011.
- Wood GS, et al. Nonmelanoma skin cancers: Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. In: Abeloff MD, et al. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2008:1253.
- Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/nmsc.pdf. Accessed Jan. 14, 2011.
- What you need to know about melanoma and other skin cancers. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/skin. Accessed Jan. 14, 2011.
- Basal cell carcinoma. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/sun_basal.html. Accessed Jan. 19, 2011.
- Skin cancer prevention (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/skin/Patient/. Accessed Jan. 14, 2011.
- What are basal and squamous cell skin cancers? American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/SkinCancer-BasalandSquamousCell/DetailedGuide/skin-cancer-basal-and-squamous-cell-what-is-basal-and-squamous-cell. Accessed Jan. 19, 2011.
- ToxFAQx for arsenic. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=19&tid=3. Accessed Jan. 19, 2011.