Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

What are Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinomas?

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. It is a slow-growing cancer that occurs mostly in sun-exposed areas of the body, although it can occur in parts of the body that aren't exposed to the sun, and rarely if ever spreads beyond the skin.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. It also occurs mainly in sun-exposed areas. Unlike basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma can occasionally spread to the lymph nodes. Anyone who has had one tumor is also at increased risk of developing another.

Care for Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinomas

We take a multidisciplinary approach to your medical care, which means that the expertise of other specialists can be coordinated easily and effectively, if needed.

Patients who come to our clinic receive a preoperative consultation to assess, coordinate, plan and prepare you for surgery. In most cases this can be done on the phone without scheduling a preoperative visit. All patients have their biopsy slides reviewed by one of our pathologists before receiving a treatment plan. If it's determined Mohs surgery is your best option, you will be scheduled for the procedure at a later date.

Treatment Options

For low-risk lesions, dermatologists can perform a burning and scraping or standard surgical excision to remove the tumor.

For higher-risk tumors, such as those in certain locations (the head and neck or hands), large tumors, those with an aggressive microscopic growth pattern, recurrent tumors, or those occurring in an area previously treated with radiation therapy, Mohs surgery is a highly effective treatment. It is the treatment of choice for these cases because it offers the highest cure rate while removing as little normal tissue as possible, resulting in the best cosmetic outcomes.

In most cases tissue reconstruction is done in the same procedure room on the same day. If a large area of tissue was removed, a U-M facial plastic or oculoplastic surgeon may assist with the reconstruction. This can frequently be anticipated during the preoperative consultation and surgeries are coordinated in advance. Within one to two weeks most patients are fully recovered. If you had sutures, you will usually return about one to two weeks later to have them removed. We recommend all skin cancer patients receive lifetime follow-up skin exams at least yearly from their family doctor or dermatologist.

Support

As part of the Comprehensive Cancer Center patients have access to the Patient Support Services. These services are available to patients, their families and caregivers as a resource to help during treatment and afterwards.

Make an appointment, referral or have questions answered

To make a first-time appointment or have questions, please call the Patient Care Center at 1-800-865-1125 and talk with one of our oncology nurses. If you would like to refer a patient, please contact M-LINEat 800-962-3555. For more information, visit our Make an Appointment web page.

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