What is Nodular Basal Cell Carcinoma?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2019
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Nodular basal cell carcinoma is the most commonly occurring form of skin cancer. It appears as a small, raised portion of the skin and may range in color from pearly white to red to dark blue or brown. It can grow over time and may begin to crack and bleed. This type of cancer is often removed surgically and the area is monitored to guarantee it does not return.

This type of skin cancer begins as a small, raised portion of skin that appears as a nodule. It grows out of the basal cells in the lower layers of the epidermis. This small tumor swells upwards and outwards, causing the skin to become red and irritated. In some cases the nodule becomes white and encrusted around the edges and may even start to bleed. Nodular basal cell carcinoma typically occurs on the skin of the face in any location between the hairline and the mouth, though other areas can become affected.


There are two other forms of basal cell carcinoma in addition to the nodular type. The pigmented lesion version of this disease produces dark raised nodules which may appear blue or black. It is similar to melanoma and may often be mistaken for it. The third type of basal cell carcinoma is only superficial, and shows itself as a scaly red area which can flake. This type is often confused with other common skin irritations like psoriasis and eczema.

The length of time one person spends in the sun and the pigmentation of his skin are two primary determining factors in developing nodular basal cell carcinoma. Light skinned individuals are more susceptible to this form of skin cancer than those who have darker skin. Men are statistically more likely to develop it than women, and it is also more common in those who are over age 45.

Individuals who are fair skinned and spend a great deal of time in the sun should check themselves regularly for nodular basal cell carcinoma. If they experience an open wound that does not heal after three or more weeks, and a growth that continues to increase in size and shows blood vessels across the surface, they may wish to contact a dermatologist immediately.

The treatment for nodular basal cell carcinoma usually involves removal of the cancerous growth through a variety of means. Cryosurgery involves freezing the cancer and removing it. Electrodessication and laser surgery both involve burning the tumor, either with chemicals or a beam of light, and removing it. Excission and micrographic surgery is the cutting away of the tumor using surgical tools, to the extent that healthy tissue is also removed and examined to ensure all cancer is gone from the body. Patients are typically at risk of a new growth appearing in a nearby area for a period of two years following surgery.


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