7 Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma You Might Think are Harmless

7 Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma | Spectrum Dermatology, Scottsdale

7 Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma You Might Think are Harmless

There are various types of skin cancer, and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) often presents in ways that people mistakenly take as harmless. Spectrum Dermatology encourages everyone, regardless of sun exposure history or skin color, to schedule a yearly skin check. This is the best way to catch all types of skin cancer early, and the earlier cancer is caught the quicker and easier it is to treat. Basal cell carcinoma is a relatively slow-growing cancer, and since it presents in a myriad of ways it is often mistaken for a sore, pimple, or scar.

A person can develop BCC anywhere on the body, but it is most often on the neck and head. Many time the lesion looks like a raised, round, shiny growth—but not always. There are seven key warning signs you should watch out for, and always see your dermatologist immediately if you notice anything odd or new on the skin.

7 Things to Look Out For About Basal Cell Carcinoma

  • A light scar that appears waxy. Both scars and BCC can look shiny or waxy, making it difficult for anyone except a dermatologist to tell the difference.
  • A round growth of any color. Moles, warts, and other benign growths can also look this way. However, so does BCC, and it can appear as nearly any color including skin-colored.
  • A scaly patch close to the ear. Scaly skin isn’t necessarily indicative of skin cancer, but it can be. Watch out for such a patch close to the ear, especially if it could be mistaken for simply dry skin, a small trauma, or a scar. BCC is particularly prevalent close to the ears.
  • A sore that won’t heal, or heals and returns. Sometimes a sore is more than a sore. It could be basal cell carcinoma, especially if it gets crusty, bleeds, or oozes. Many times these BCC lesions are mistaken for a sore or a pimple, but sores and pimples heal. BCC doesn’t.
  • A spot that’s just a little scaly. Is it a freckle, age spot, or BCC? Only a dermatologist can tell you for certain. BCC is very good at looking harmless and blending into the skin.
  • There’s a reddish bump that dips in the middle. This is one way BCC can present, and a lot of people think it’s an acne scar or other skin trauma. If you notice any kind of indent in the skin, that might be BCC and not an accidental scratch or lingering sign of acne.
  • There’s a slightly raised and scaly patch of skin of any color. Dry and irritated skin can also look like this, especially if it is red or pink. However, dry and scaly skin is also a tell-tale sign of BCC.

These are seven of the most common ways BCC can be mistaken for other skin issues. Also bear in mind that although BCC most often occurs on the head and neck, it can also happen anywhere. When it appears on the trunk, it often looks like a scaly patch that could be skin-colored. Basal cell carcinoma can also be different colors in different parts of the growth cycle (though BCC does typically tend to be a singular color). The majority of BCC is pink or red, but skin-colored and brown growths are not uncommon.

Diagnosing BCC

Your dermatologist is key to keeping all skin cancer at bay and treating sites if and when they do occur. In addition to the head and neck, BCC is regularly fond of the shoulders, back, arms, legs, and anywhere else you’ve had a lot of sun exposure. There are no stringent rules when it comes to BCC, so consider that a reminder of how important yearly skin checks are.

Most BCC growths are not painful. However, there are cases where BCC has led to itching, paresthesia, excessive sensitivity, or a feeling like pins and needles. Whether you have these symptoms or not, any spot, bump, or unusual area on the skin is a sign that you should call your dermatologist immediately. Self skin-exams are very helpful in finding such spots in between your yearly exams, but it is often fruitless and frustrating to try to self-diagnose. Contact Spectrum Dermatology now at 480-948-8400.