Basal Cell Carcinoma Diagnosis & Detection
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Evaluation of a suspicious skin lesion and diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma is typically performed by a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases of the skin. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), we specialize in treating cancers that have returned, or that have spread to other parts of the body, when other types of treatment are necessary.
How Is Basal Cell Carcinoma Diagnosed?
The basal cell carcinoma detection process begins with a visual examination. Your doctor or dermatologist will first examine the spot, noting its size, shape, color and texture, as well as any bleeding or scaling. Your doctor may also examine nearby lymph nodes to see if they are enlarged. At this point, if you are being seen by a primary care physician, you may be referred to a dermatologist who can perform more specialized tests.
A dermatologist may use a special microscope or magnifying lens to examine the suspicious spot more closely, a process called dermatoscopy. They may also take a digital or photographic image of the spot.
The next step in diagnosing basal cell carcinoma is to remove a piece of the suspicious growth for examination by a laboratory, where they will look for cancerous cells. In many cases, your doctor will remove the whole growth. During this procedure, your doctor will numb the area before removing a tissue sample. There are several different biopsy methods, but an excisional biopsy in which the doctor removes the entire growth is often sufficient to treat a basal cell carcinoma.
If the basal cell carcinoma detection process yields a positive diagnosis, your doctor may also perform some tests to determine whether or not the cancer has spread beyond the skin. Although basal cell carcinomas rarely spread, if they do, the first place they usually spread is to nearby lymph nodes. Your doctor may feel to see if any lymph nodes are enlarged. They may also take a biopsy of any suspicious lymph nodes to see if they contain cancer cells.
In very rare cases where it is suspected that the cancer has spread, other imaging tests, such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, may be used to determine if cancer cells have spread to internal organs and bones.
Next Topic: Basal Cell Carcinoma Staging.