Basal cell carcinoma or basal cell skin cancer is the most common form of skin cancer. It develops directly from the basal cells found in the bottom layer of the epidermis and around the hair follicles. A common risk factor for this type of cancer is sunlight damage to the skin; therefore, basal cell carcinoma most commonly develops on the face and neck, tops of the shoulders, chest, and back. This type of skin cancer can present as various kinds of lesions.
Little, translucent lumps that look like pearly pimples can develop just below the skin. This is the most common form of basal cell carcinoma and will most often appear on the face, ears, or neck. From time to time these pimples may rupture and bleed before scabbing over.
The least common form of basal cell carcinoma is [called] the morphoeic basal cell carcinoma. The cancer develops as white scar-like lesions on the skin, usually on and around the face. The lesions are usually painless, slightly waxy in appearance, and raised but with no clearly defined border. The skin on and around the affected may feel taut and look shiny. As rare as this version of basal cell carcinoma is, it is also the most disfiguring and invasive form, as it may infiltrate the nerves of the skin , and spread beyond the skin layers.
In some cases, an open wound that will not heal is an early sign of basal cell carcinoma. The sores can form a pattern of bleeding and oozing lasting as long as a few weeks before crusting over, then opening and bleeding once again. An open wound, no matter how small, requires attention, but these lesions are persistent and often refuse to heal. This symptom is common in the early stages of basal cell carcinoma.
A black lump on the skin that has developed recently or is clearly not a mole or skin tag could be a pigmented lesion. These growths are brown or a mix of black and blue and often appear with dark spots on them. They will be raised off the skin, some more than others, and usually have a translucent border.
A common symptom of basal cell carcinoma is the formation of small red patches that can grow quite large if left untreated. They can appear on the face, chest, shoulders, arms, and legs -- anywhere often exposed to sunlight. They are usually flat but may have a scaly appearance and a slightly raised edge. The lesions should be promptly examined and diagnosed, regardless of the degree of pain or irritation they cause. They are often misdiagnosed as psoriasis or other skin conditions.
Another pinkish lesion can develop on the skin of people with basal cell carcinoma. These "nodular lesions" have a raised and rolled border around the affected area, with a crevice in the middle that may be crusty with dried fluid. These are the most common form of this type of skin cancer and generally continue to grow, with blood vessels appearing on the surface.
Not all skin cancers are itchy. In the case of basal cell carcinoma, the level of discomfort of the skin varies from person to person depending on the severity of the skin area affected. The itchy skin will usually form on or around the cancerous patch. Scratching the area can irritate it more and cause flaking on the already damaged skin. If you have no allergies that you know of and have a persistent itch on or around suspicious-looking skin patches, please see your health professional.
Some basal cell carcinoma lesions have small indentations in the center, similar to a canker sore. These depressions in the skin may weep and crust. The temptation to pick at a sore is normal, but it is important not to disrupt these growths and to see a doctor if they appear to grow or spread or do not heal promptly.
Most basal cell carcinomas can be mistaken for warts, skin growths caused by various viruses that enter the body through broken skin. Like warts, some cancerous skin growths can be painless but irritating, but one shouldn't ignore a lump unless they are sure it is a wart. A doctor can usually confirm whether or not a skin bump is a wart with a visual inspection. If he is unsure, he may take a biopsy and send the sample for testing.
Some types of skin cancers affect the nerves, causing pain, itching, and general discomfort. This feeling of numbness, tingling, [prickling] or crawling along the skin can be highly irritating and can indicate the start of a growth or lesion. Anyone who experiences this sensation should take note of where it is felt and how long it lasts, and report these symptoms to his or her doctor is the feeling does not resolve quickly, especially if other symptoms of basal cell carcinoma are also present.
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