Authored by Revere Health

Do I Really Need Surgery to Remove My Skin Cancer?

June 6, 2018 | DermatologyValue-Based Care

Skin Cancer and Sun Exposure

Most people know that melanoma is a dangerous skin cancer, but they usually don’t view basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common type of skin cancer, in the same light. BCC is rarely life-threatening and, coupled with the cost of treatment or the potential for scarring, patients sometimes think it’s not important to remove.

But the truth is BCC is just like any other cancer in the sense that early treatment is key to preventing complications. So do you really need surgery to remove BCC? Absolutely.


Basal cell carcinoma: the facts

BCC usually develops on skin that sees the sun most frequently, such as the head, neck and hands, but it can occur in any part of the body.

Signs of BCC include:

  • A growth that is flat, firm and pale or small
  • Pink or red growths
  • Growths with a translucent, shiny or waxy appearance
  • A growth that bleeds easily with possible oozing or crusting
  • A growth with a depression in the center
  • Blue, brown or black patches

If you see spots or growths with these features, it’s important to contact your doctor.

What happens to untreated nonmelanoma skin cancer?

Basal cell carcinomas rarely metastasize (spread), but they can still cause significant deformity, especially when located on the face. BCCs continue to grow slowly, and even though they may look small on the surface, it’s possible that the tumor is penetrating deeper into the skin.

When left untreated long enough, BCCs can:

  • Alter bodily structures: BCCs on the face, for example, may snarl the lip or erode part of the nose
  • Lead to blindness: BCCs on the face that invade the orbit (the bony cavity in the skull in which the eyeball sits)
  • Spread to the muscle, nerves or bone: This happens in rare and aggressive cases, often after the cancer has been present for several years.
  • Lead to infection: If a sore or ulcer develops, there is a possibility of infection.
  • Cause disfiguring scars: If the BCC is left untreated for a long time, it can make it more difficult to remove without a poor cosmetic outcome. Early detection and treatment reduces scarring caused by removal.

It’s important to remember that even with successful treatment, BCC can recur and your risk of developing another BCC increases. In fact, about 60 percent of people who have had one skin cancer will develop another within 10 years. A BCC diagnosis is also a risk factor for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Practice these prevention techniques now to protect yourself from melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers.

  • Wear sunscreen daily: Choose a product that has an SPF of 15 or higher.
  • Avoid UV rays: This includes avoiding tanning beds and direct sunlight during the brightest parts of the day.
  • Wear protective clothing: Lightweight clothing and hats can help protect your skin from sun exposure.

BCC, although not as deadly as melanoma, is still a serious condition that should not be left untreated. If you have concerns about the removal process or what you can expect, consult your doctor. He or she will be able to help you find the best treatment for your situation.


Our experienced physicians share a collaborative approach that puts our patients’ needs first. Our focus includes surgical dermatology, skin cancer, pediatric dermatology and general dermatological issues and conditions. We provide cutting-edge diagnostics and treatments to help you maintain good health and great skin.



“ASK THE EXPERT: Can I Leave My Cancer Alone?” Skin Cancer Foundation.

“Basal Cell Carcinoma.” American Academy of Dermatology.

“Skin Cancer Symptoms.” Cancer Center Treatments of America.

“Basal Cell Carcinoma.” Medscape.

“Basal Cell Carcinoma.” Healthline.

The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.