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Basal Cell Carcinoma Excision - What Can You Expect?

If your doctor has diagnosed that suspicious little lump under your skin as Basal Cell Carcinoma, you may be facing a simple surgical procedure to get rid of that pesky bump that will scab and bleed, but just won't go away.

First of all, congratulations for getting it looked at by a doctor. Most of us know that a sore that doesn't heal or a bump that doesn't go away, should have a professional medical evaluation.

I knew I should have it examined, but like many others do I put it off thinking it would eventually go away.

Scarface

basal-cell-carcinoma-excision-what-to-expect

I Tried All Kinds of Remedies

Like me, you may have tried antibiotic ointment, aloe vera, vitamin e oil, tea tree oil, and all of the usual home remedies, but if you see no improvement it's time to seek a doctor's opinion.

Most of us wait longer than we should. I did, even when It was scabbing, bleeding, seeming to heal, and then going through the cycle again.

Yes, "carcinoma" does mean cancer but the good news is -- as some doctors will tell you-- a Basal Cell Carcinoma is "the best kind of cancer you can have" because it rarely spreads to other areas and organs.

The worst things about BC are that they do tend to keep growing. They can cause some disfigurement and topical medicines or other non- surgical procedures are rarely effective.

Most skin cancers are caused by DNA mutations in skin cells as a result of exposure to UV sunlight.

The sun exposure you experienced many years ago can be the source of the damage which eventually causes the cells to multiply uncontrollably.

The "Scarface" Photo Shows The Day After Surgery

Yes, it's me with a scar I should have had a year ago. If I had gone to the doctor earlier it would have been smaller.

No, I haven't been dueling Mensur style at a German university, and it's not the result of a botched face lift.

I finally had a brief doctor's-office surgery that removed a skin cancer above my upper lip on the right side.

The little bump, a Basal Cell Carcinoma is now gone.

The nurse bandaged my wound with a big lump of gauze and strips of tape that reached over the bridge of my nose to under my chin, which kind of made me look like Bert Lahr in his makeup as the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz.

Six sutures, a swollen lip, some minor pain and a bit of a headache were all I had the day after the excision.

With the dressings removed it looked like I had half of a Fu Manchu mustache. The swollen lip gave me the unintended expression of a condescending sneer.

Both of these effects were short-lived.

Basal Cell Excision: Warning! Blood is involved.

The Surgery

I had previously been diagnosed by the physician's assistant, so when the dermatological surgeon walked into the room on the day of my appointment it was the first time I had seen him.

The fleeting thought passed through my mind: "Why am I going to let a complete stranger, whom I have never seen before, cut my face open?"

On the other hand, he seemed calm and confident. More importantly, I knew he was a certified surgeon, and personally knew someone who had been through a similar procedure done by him.

If you need to have this done, especially if it is in a sensitive place, you will probably want to use a skin specialist.

The video accompanying this article, looks a lot like what happened to me. If you are sensitive about blood it may be a little too gory for you, but If you want a good picture of what will happen it might also reassure you.

One difference between the video and my surgery is that mine was near my mouth, so I was unable to talk and ask questions like the person making the film. Actually, I would prefer that my doctor be fully focused on the task at hand, rather than having a conversation.

Though my doctor wasn't talkative, he did warn me when he was doing something different. He prepped the area with antiseptic then used a marker to locate the lesion

I could see from the video that the pain numbing injection did raise quite a bump under the skin. I could feel those effects. It did sting a little at first, then created a light burning sensation as I had been warned. It felt like a marble had been inserted under the skin at the site of the surgery but soon it all was numb.

About halfway through the doctor told me that he was doing a little cauterizing, which I assume was to staunch the blood flow a bit. It smelled like barbeque.

It was not really too uncomfortable. There was no pain with the cutting, cauterizing and stitching. The procedure was finished in about 15 minutes.

If you are self-conscious about your scar...

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Sutures Out

Exactly a week later, a nurse removed the stitches and covered the area with little pieces of tape. She said to ignore the tape, shower with it, and let it come of naturally.

Tests on the removed tissue had confirmed that the lesion had indeed been a Basal Cell Carcinoma and "all the borders were clear", indicating that it had been completely removed and had not spread into surrounding areas.

Actually, the tape did not stick well at all. This was probably because there were still some traces of the antiseptic ointment that had been used on the wound.

As far as I could see it was well healed though a little swelling remained and there were a few tiny dots where the sutures were removed.

Because the doctor had made the incision close to my natural "expression lines", it was barely noticeable. Two weeks later-- there was no mark to suggest that anything had been cut.

I had been prepared for a worse outcome, so all is well. No scar, no pain, and the bump is gone.

Update:

Today about 18 months after this procedure, I had another excision of a similar cell. It was but located close to the site of the original one. I recognized it early and didn't put of having it checked out like I did the first one.

I really didn't want to do this again but I think doing it sooner was better than putting it off for a year, as I did before.

This one was lower and closer to my lip. The procedure was quicker and required only three stitches. It felt better than my first one did on the first day.

Yes, as I expected, earlier is better in all ways. It was much faster healing, and all seems well now, more than a year after my second surgery.

What is that spot on my skin?

Name of ConditionSymptoms and DangersTreatment and Prognosis

Actinic Keritosis

Pre-cancerous condition of rough scaly skin which may develop into squamous cell carcinoma if left untreated..

Topical medications may be sufficient. Liquid nitrogen is often used to destroy the lesions.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Can look like red patches, open sores or shiny bumps. A Cancer which can continue to grow, but almost never spreads to another site

Depending upon size, location and other factors it can be treated in several different ways. Simple excision is often most effective.

Dysplastic Nevi or Atypical Moles

Dark spots that may be irregularly shaped can indicate an increased risk of Melanoma

Need to be examined by a medical professional to determine risk.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Can become disfiguring if left untreated.

Generally treated by excision.

Melanoma

Is the rarest and potentially most deadly of all skin cancers.

Curable when treated early. Prevention or early detection is vital to prevent invasive spreading

Where Did it Come from? Why Isn't it Going Away?

Basal Cell Carcinoma is usually treated by a simple surgical incision. Sometimes a topical medication or a spray of liquid nitrogen is used on small pre-cancerous spots.

If you have a suspicious spot that won't go away don't ignore it and give it a chance to do some serious harm. It should be checked.

Even the worst types of skin cancers can be successfully treated. Sooner is better than later.

Most of these lesions are a result of damage from sunlight and UV rays. Often the damage at a cellular level has happened many years before.

That series of sunburns you got when you were quite young, may produce unwanted results years, even decades, later.

Wear a hat. Use sunscreen. Don't ignore the persistent spot.

Remember the sunscreen!

Remember the sunscreen!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on September 15, 2020:

Thanks! If you are facing this, it will probably be easier than you think.

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on September 15, 2020:

Helpful, encouraging information.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on March 24, 2019:

It sounds like you are doing the right things. I was a blonde in my younger days and have light skin. I grew up in a California beach town, and as a teen we all spent a lot of time on the shore. At that time we were really unaware of the real dangers of sunburn. I was often the only girl wearing a hat and a long sleeved shirt on the beach. There was no such thing as sunscreen lotion.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on March 24, 2019:

This is something I worry about. We live just a few degrees south of the equator and our UV index is often in the extreme category. I tend to wear long sleeves, gloves, trousers, a hat and a face covering when I work outside. It gets very hot but I feel it's better than using sunblock.

I think years of sun cream can't be good for the skin either.

I'm glad you had it cut out and now are quick to react, as you did with the second one. You're a good activist to promote the need for medical checks.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on April 26, 2018:

Thanks, Peggy.

Prevention is always best. Back in the olden days we didn't know better.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 26, 2018:

Hi Rochelle,

Glad you received treatment and the basil cell carcinomas in both instances have been successfully removed. This is an important topic but I enjoyed the humor in which you described the temporary scars on your face post surgery. Early detection and treatment is key to having good results. Even better is skin protection to avoid such occurrences from happening in the first place.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on January 25, 2018:

Chances are, they are not dangerous. I would have them checked, just to be sure. Then you can stop worrying.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on January 05, 2018:

It is always a good idea to get it checked. Chances are good that it is not serious, but it’s important to be sure.

Pam Crews on January 04, 2018:

I've got a brown spot on my nose about two years ago and I figured it was an age spot, but in the last year they've been popping up on my legs and arms, I probably have ten or twelve dark spots, should I be worried? Their not raised just level with my skin so I'm guessing they are age spots.

Gloria Siess from Wrightwood, California on December 27, 2017:

Thank you for writing this; I just had a biopsy and am having a basal cell lesion removed in surgery in January. I would love your comments on my new hub regarding this if you have time.

Good hub! I recommend a wonderful product I am using called DermaCream, available at Amazon. It covered up my lesion rather nicely.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on October 13, 2015:

Thanks again-- Like you, I grew up in Southern California (in a beach town as well).

I learned early that my fair skin burned easily, but back then we didn't realize the long term effects. Being outdoors in the everlasting sunny weather -- even with hats and long sleeves -- takes a toll.

Pay attention to the signs, and it can usually be handled with a little medical help.

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on October 13, 2015:

I think this is a real issue with many of us who live in California. I am glad you got it taken care of. Good information in this hub.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on November 12, 2014:

Most of us tend to put it off longer than we should, even when we know earlier is better. Thanks for commenting, maggs224.

maggs224 from Sunny Spain on November 12, 2014:

I had my first one when I was in my early twenties after I had been living in Singapore for two years. That was about forty years ago, and I did not know what it was, and my husband being in the Navy meant that we were not in one place very long. I was very fit back then, so I had no need to visit the doctors. However, when I became pregnant, the doctor noticed the lesion which by this time had eaten into my lip.

I wish I had known what it was early on, as the scar and the surgery would have been much more minor than it turned out to be.

Billie Kelpin from Newport Beach on November 06, 2014:

Rochelle, Ah, I didn't read closely enough. I thought you DID have the Moh's surgery. Glad you didn't have to have it although the doctor felt is was very successful and wasn't hard for me to deal with at all. (It helped that my cousin casually told me, "Oh, I had that done several times." I felt less frightened as I hope others facing this will feel by reading about those who needed to have this procedure. Cheerio, Billie

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on November 06, 2014:

Since I've had two in about the same place, my doctor suggested that I should try the Moh's procedure if I had another. So far that hasn't happened. I think it may take a bit longer to heal, but is also very effective. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on September 15, 2014:

Good luck with yours. We tend to delay these things, and it is always best to take care of them early. At least we have much better options than past generations did.

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on September 14, 2014:

Thanks for leaving the comment on my hub about Skin Cancer.

I go next week to have a lump remove from the inside my top lip.

Here's hoping everything will work out fine. Positive attitude, that's me.

All the best to you that you have no more problems. Thinking or you.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on June 28, 2014:

The doctors I saw seemed rather 'matter of fact' about it, so it was not too scary-- and turned out to be easier than I thought it would be.

Dianna Mendez on June 28, 2014:

So glad this turned out well for you. It's a bit scary when you have that first doctor visit. Thanks for sharing this important information.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on June 11, 2014:

I'm glad I did, to, MsDora. I read, voted up and tweeted your melanoma hub.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 11, 2014:

This interests me especially because I am just now being educateda bout skin cancer. Did an article on melanoma in dark skinned-people last week. Thanks for sharing your experience with this type. Glad you found it when you did.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on June 08, 2014:

Update on my second one-- all is well. since we got it early, there were only three stitches. It healed quickly and invisibly.

I restate my advice to get it done quickly ... Even though I was not looking forward to doing this again, it was easier this time.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on December 18, 2013:

Basal Cell is MUCh different as you probably know.-- one of the few cancers that rarely migrates, so it's OK to smile a little.

JRs from United States on December 18, 2013:

You give me so many ideas when I read your hubs. This one took bravery. My dad died from melanoma in 2012 and I had Hodgkin's Lymphoma in the 90's. This hub is very good to help people facing such a thing. I found comfort in knowing I wasn't alone in my diagnosis. This hub provides people with that kind of effect. I love how you add some humor with your photos.

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on December 02, 2013:

Rochelle Frank

Yes, the melanoma was tiny - dealt with really hard and really fast.

We really do have to keep a watch on our skin, better sooner rather than later.

It is also very reassuring to think that the topical treatment works OK, thanks for that.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on December 01, 2013:

Yes, you have to stay aware and know what to look for.

I would think that having the surgery on your neck would be a little more touchy. The skin is thin, and there are things underneath that you don't want to mess with too much.

In that case, I think the topical treatment might be worth trying first-- it would really depend on what your doctor (and your second opinion doctor, if necessary) recommends. I have had topical treatments for some 'spots'-- I know it takes some patience, and may look ugly for awhile, but.... if it works, no complaints.

You want to take out the melanoma hard, complete and fast.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on December 01, 2013:

True, carol3san. Many cancers can be effectively treated if people pay attention and don't wait too long.

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on December 01, 2013:

Rochelle Frank A very useful post - I went the topical route for a Basal Cell Carcinoma on my neck - I wish I had gone the same route as you did. Also had a Melanoma - went the surgical route for that one but am always keeping an eye out now for unusual happenings - thanks for sharing.

Carolyn Sands from Hollywood Florida on December 01, 2013:

Thanks for sharing this information. It is encouraging to know that it is not the end of the world when you have cancer...especially this type of cancer. Successful treatment right in the doctor's office is amazing. So glad your experience was a positive one.

Mary McShane from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on November 30, 2013:

How lucky you are that it was Basal Cell and not anything more serious. Your hub well describes the process, recovery as well as good advice to your readers to not sit on the fence about this. Well done!

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on November 30, 2013:

It does not sound too bad. Thanks for letting us know what to expect.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on August 22, 2013:

I think these things are easier to do if you know a little about what to expect.

Also, since I personally knew someone who previously had a similar face surgery by this same doctor, I had some reassurance that it would be OK.

Thanks for commenting, MsDora.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 22, 2013:

Rochelle, so glad you did the right thing. It is very thoughtful of you to share your experience. All the best going forward!

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on July 28, 2013:

Thank you, Lastheart. We all need to pay attention to those little things. Taking care of them isn't as difficult as you might think. I appreciate the sharing.

Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord on July 27, 2013:

Very brave and altruist by sharing such good and preventive information. Wow!!! you have me thinking now, I'll share to have others thinking also. Thanks!

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on June 04, 2013:

I didn't get much use out of the disguise since the incision healed pretty fast. Skin cancer can do the ultimate damage, but this type is not so dangerous. Thanks for commenting, drbj.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on June 03, 2013:

Love your self-portrait in disguise photo, Rochelle. Happy you did not need to go to that extreme and took care of the problem in time. Excellent information here that should go far to alleviate ignorance of the damage a skin cancer may do.

Rochelle Frank (author) from California Gold Country on June 03, 2013:

These things can become troublesome, but they rarely spread. Like most people, I did wait longer than I should have. The procedure was quick and easy from my viewpoint. Thanks for the comment.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 02, 2013:

Such an important hub. I love your attitude about the scar. You and I are similar that way....I'd rather have the scar than the alternative....well done with this hub and I'm so happy that you caught this in time.