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Symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma

written by: Kimberly Johnson • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 6/1/2011

Identifying basal cell carcinoma symptoms can be trickier than identifying other skin cancers. Here are the signs to watch for to detect and stop this skin cancer early.

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    What is This Disease?

    Basal cell carcinoma Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of cancer in the United States. It is a slow growing cancer that accounts for 75 percent of all skin cancers found. The cancer grows in the top layer of the skin, which is called the epidermis. The epidermis consists of a top layer called the squamous, a middle section called melanocyte and a lower section called the basal layer which is where basal cell carcinoma develops.

    Although all skin cancers are serious, basal cell carcinoma has a very high recovery rate and rarely spreads to other areas of the body. If detected early, it is easily removable with little chance of recurrence. There is only a 1 percent chance that basal cell carcinoma will redevleop later if is treated early (MedlinePlus).

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    Symptoms

    Open Sores that Don't Heal

    The most typical symptom is an open sore that does not heal. It often has a scab-like appearance and may bleed when touched, even lightly. It is also common for the sores to ooze clear or bloody colored liquid. When the sores initially appear on the face or neck, many people mistake them for pimples or bug bites.

    These sores occur on parts of the body that are most often exposed to the sun, such as the head, arms and face. When it occurs on the face, the most common development sites are the nose and ears. However, 20 percent of all basal cell carcinomas occur in areas not typically exposed to the sun such as the chest, arms and back (WebMD), so it's important to examine each skin irregularity.

    Clusters of Blood Vessels

    One of the most distinctive signs of this particular type of skin cancer is a raised bump that has a red coloring on top. The redness is actually a series of tiny clusters of blood vessels which are clearly visible from outside the skin. These superficial blood vessels, called telangiectases, are more prominent as the cancer progresses.

    Irregularly Shaped Sores

    Some basal cell carcinomas do not bleed or ooze but have other distinguishing characteristics that indicate an abnormality. One such identifier is a raised sore that has an indented or depressed center. The sore can be at the same level as the skin or slightly raised.

    Odd Skin Discolorations

    While sores are one of the most easily recognized basal cell carcinoma symptoms, odd skin discolorations can also be a symptom. Sufferers may notice a skin blemish that looks like a scar in an area where an injury never occured. In addition, the cancer can have a white, waxy or pearl-like appearance. People typically notice these abnormal skin discolorations during the spring and summer months when the surrounding skin has tanned leaving the telltale unpigmented areas of basal cell carcinoma.

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    References

    WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/melanoma-skin-cancer/basal-cell-carcinoma

    Medline Plus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000824.htm

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    Image Credit

    Wikimedia Commons; Basal cell carcinoma.jpg; John Hendrix, MD