Most basal cell carcinomas are painless. People often first become aware of them as a scab that bleeds occasionally and does not heal completely. Some basal cell carcinomas are very superficial and look like a scaly red flat mark: others have a pearl-like rim surrounding a central crater. If left for years, the latter type can eventually erode the skin causing an ulcer – hence the name “rodent ulcer”. Other basal cell carcinomas are quite lumpy, with one or more shiny nodules crossed by small but easily seen blood vessels.
Basal cell carcinomas can be cured in almost every case, although treatment becomes complicated if they have been neglected for a very long time, or if they are in an awkward place - such as near the eye, nose or ear. Seldom, if ever, do they spread to other parts of the body.
Diagnosing basal cell carcinomas
Sometimes the diagnosis is clear from its appearance. If further investigation is necessary a small area of the abnormal skin (a biopsy) or all of the lesion (an excision biopsy) may be cut out and examined under the microscope. You will be given a local anesthetic beforehand to numb the skin.