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Top 6 Non-Surgical Options for Treating Basal Cell Carcinoma

“It’s scary enough to tell someone they have cancer, let alone that they need surgery to treat their disease” says Dr. Adam Mamelak, board-certified dermatologist and skin cancer expert at Sanova Dermatology in Austin, Texas. “so it’s really great to tell patients they have options.”

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) affects over 2 million individual new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, making it one of the most common forms of non-melanoma related skin cancer. Although surgery is considered one of the most common treatments for BCC, non-surgical treatments are available and can be a reliable therapeutic option. Non-surgical treatments are considered highly effective and, in some situations, can achieve acceptable outcomes with little discomfort or morbidity to the patient.

Dr. Mamelak is trained in Mohs micrographic surgery, an extremely precise technique for treating skin cancer. However, as Dr. Mamelak explains, not every tumor should be treated the same way.

Top 6 Non-Surgical Options for Treating Basal Cell Carcinoma

  • Imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara): This is a topical cream activates the patients own immune system to fight the skin cancer.  On a more technical level, imiquimod contains an immunomodulator that triggers the patient’s immune system to respond by releasing cytokines into the body. These cytokines stimulate a number of immune cells to respond and attack the BCC on a cellular level.
  • 5-Fluorouracil (Carac, Efudex) Treatment: This topical cream can be used to treat small BCC growths on the patient’s skin. The treatment involves applying the cream to the BCC for about 6 weeks. It is most commonly used as a preemptive treatment to eradicate subclinical tumors, or precancerous lesions known as Actinic Keratosis.
  • Photodynamic Therapy (ALA-PDT): This therapy uses a photosensitizing agent and light photon energy, which the body converts to oxygen singlets. The oxygen singlets target BCC cells causing them to die off, eliminating the cells completely.
  • Erivedge (Vismodegib): This treatment is taken orally by patients suffering from “non-operable” BCC. In general, this therapy is reserved for individuals that are not surgical candidates and for whom radiation therapy is not an option. Erivedge interferes the Sonic hedgehog signaling pathway, a molecular pathways in skin cells that has been associated with BCC cell growth.
  • Tazorac (Tazarotene): Part of the Vitamin A family like Retinol, Retin-A and Tretinoin, Tazorac gel is a receptor-selective treatment which causes BCC regression. Tazorac increases apoptosis and decreases cell proliferation in cancer cells. In clinical studies, this treatment caused BCC regression in over 50% of patients.
  • Soriatane/Acitretin: Is a chemoprevention drug that can be taken orally by patients suffering from BCC. In clinical trials, those who took Soriatane/Acitretin saw a significant decrease in BCC cell growth.

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For more information on the treatment options for Basal Cell Carcinoma or other forms of skin cancer, please contact us today. Our skin care specialists are skilled in the best methods of skin cancer treatment and prevention.