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Basal Cell Carcinomaback to patient info

What is a basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is also known as a rodent ulcer.  It is the most common type of skin cancer, particularly at risk are fair skinned people and it accounts for about 90-95% of malignant eyelid cancers.

How do basal cell carcinomas develop?

They start as a skin lesion or sore that does not heal.  It can appear as a red and rough patch, with scabs or ulcer or a small swelling.  Basal cell carcinomas grow slowly and very rarely spread to other parts of the body.  However if it is not treated it can grow locally and destroy the surrounding tissues.

What causes basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinomas are thought to be caused by damage to the skin by ultra violet light contained in sunlight.  Patients who have had prolonged exposure to the sun in the first 20 years of life are more likely to develop basal cell carcinomas in their middle and older age.  Black and brown skinned people are less likely to develop skin cancer because of the melanin in their skins giving them more protection.

The doctor has said I need to have the basal cell carcinoma removed.  What does this involve?

Surgery is usually undertaken in two stages.

Stage one:    The basal cell carcinoma is removed under a local anaesthetic, which means you would be awake during the operation and an injection would be given to numb the eyelid.  Once the eyelid is numb you should not feel any discomfort however you will still feel some touching or pulling sensations.  The carcinoma is removed and a dressing is applied over the eye and you would then be allowed home.  You must not remove the dressing, it should be left in place until stage 2 (1-8 days).

Stage two:    This takes place usually 1-7 days after stage one and is usually under general anaesthetic or sometimes local anaesthetic (numbing injection).  As long as all of the cancer has been removed the surgery would involve reconstruction of the eyelid.  Following surgery you would probably stay overnight unless you had care at home to look after you following a general anaesthetic.  A dressing would be applied and must be left in place for a further 2-7 days.  While having the dressings in place you are not allowed to drive.  Have a supply of painkillers if you require them such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen.

Follow up

This usually takes place 5-7 days after stage two.  The dressing is removed and the specialist will review you.  Antibiotic ointment is prescribed to be applied over the area for a number of days/weeks.

If you have any problems following surgery:

Do not hesitate to get back in touch:        Mr H Ahluwalia 02476 966506

Preventing further skin cancers

    Protect yourself from the sun.

    Wear a wide brimmed hat to protect the face and neck and protective clothing when outdoors.

    Never allow your skin to burn.

    Use high factor sunscreen (30 spf or above) and re-apply every 2-3 hours, or more frequently if swimming or perspiring.

    Avoid exposure to the sun during the hottest part of the day.

    Always keep babies and children out of strong sunlight and apply sunscreen regularly.

    Examine your skin regularly and seek medical advice for any lesion that does not heal in six weeks.