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About Skin Cancer

Basal cell carcinoma (also known as BCC or basal cell skin cancer) is the most common cancer in the United States with several million tumors annually. Fortunately, basal cell carcinoma almost never spread and can usually be cured with a surgical procedure under local anesthesia in one day and almost never requires chemotherapy or radiation.

Without treatment basal cell carcinomas continue to grow, sometimes growing more under the skin than on top of the skin. If a basal cell carcinoma goes untreated it may spread and require more aggressive interventions to remove. Very rarely, basal cell carcinoma can spread to other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes and lungs and can be deadly.

Squamous cell carcinoma (also known as SCC or squamous cell skin cancer) is the second most common skin cancer with more than a million tumors in the United States annually. Squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma both come from the same skin cell called the keratinocyte. Keratinocytes constitutes the majority of the tissue paper thin top layer of our skin called the epidermis.

Squamous cell carcinoma is also usually removed with a surgical procedure under local anesthesia in one day. It is unusual for a squamous cell carcinoma to spread to other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes, however this happens more for squamous cell carcinoma than for basal cell carcinoma. Some factors that increase the likelihood of the squamous cell carcinoma spreading are large size of the tumor and a weak immune system in the patient such as in patients with history of an organ transplant.

Mohs surgery offers the highest possible cure rate for squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, up to 99%. Mohs surgery is also the only treatment to check 100% of the edge of the tissue to be as sure as possible that the tumor is removed. There are other treatment options such as a scraping and burning procedure (electrodessication and curettage) and certain creams that may be best for thin, lower risk tumors in low-risk areas that are not cosmetically sensitive.