How is Basal Cell Carcinoma Diagnosed?


Don’t ignore suspicious-looking changes to your skin and moles. Early detection of basal cell carcinoma is your best chance of removing it with little or no significant scarring. Make an appointment with your doctor or a dermatologist so they can make a thorough assessment.

If your doctor feels that any areas of your skin require attention, additional steps may include:

  • A routine assessment of your medical history
  • A discussion of signs, symptoms, and concerns
  • A skin examination to assess the area and determine if similar lesions appear anywhere else on your body
  • Your doctor may choose to perform a skin biopsy
    • A skin biopsy removes skin samples from your body which are sent to a laboratory for further examination. If cancer cells are present, the doctor will remove the abnormal tissue. There are three main types of skin biopsies:
      • Shave biopsy - The doctor uses a small “razor” to remove a little bit of the epidermis and dermis (top layers of skin)
      • Punch biopsy - A circular tool resembling a mini cookie cutter is used to remove a small skin sample from deeper layers (epidermis, dermis, and superficial fat)
      • Excisional biopsy - The doctor uses a scalpel (small knife) to remove a lump or abnormal skin section totally. They must include a small amount of normal skin, including the fatty layer of skin.  

NewYork-Presbyterian’s team of cancer care skin experts offers innovative approaches to treating basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinomas, and melanoma. We provide treatments for every stage of skin cancer.

NewYork-Presbyterian uses advanced, high-resolution “mole mapping” services for people who are considered at high risk for developing melanoma. This procedure allows for the early detection of skin cancer and moles that require a biopsy.

How is Basal Cell Carcinoma Treated?


Treatment for basal cell carcinoma depends on the extent of the skin cancer—early detection is a critical factor in halting the advancement of cancer growth. One procedure used by NewYork-Presbyterian is called electrosurgery. The dermatologist uses a sharp instrument called a curette to scrape off the basal cell carcinoma. Then a heat or chemical agent is applied to destroy any remaining cancer cells, stop the bleeding and close the wound.

Nonsurgical treatments for skin cancer

Surgery is not the only option. NewYork-Presbyterian offers a complete range of innovative nonsurgical basal cell carcinoma treatments.

  • Radiation therapy is used to treat large areas of skin cancer, hard-to-reach cancer, or metastatic skin cancers. Radiation is also used as a follow-up therapy to kill any remaining skin cancer cells after surgery.

In patients with tumors at high risk of recurrence or that have become metastatic, systemic treatments may be used.

  • Immunotherapyactivates the immune system to allow the immune cells to recognize and kill cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy. In cases of advanced skin cancers where other treatments were unsuccessful, patients can receive chemotherapy in one of our state-of-the-art infusion centers
  • Targeted therapies. In cases where certain skin cancers have extended to other tissues, doctors may prescribe anticancer drugs to combat the molecular disorders promoting cancer growth.



You may be able to pick off a basal cell lesion. However, it will eventually grow back.

Though basal cell carcinoma is considered a slow-growing skin cancer, early detection and treatment are advised. If left untreated, the tumors can grow to become more aggressive forms of cancer. Additionally, if left unchecked, basal cell carcinoma can cause significant scarring.

Basal cells are in the bottom part of the top skin layer (epidermis). They get their name (basal meaning base or bottom) because they are the deepest cells in the epidermis. These basal cells are typically located less than one one-hundredth of an inch deep. However, as cancer grows, it can spread deeper.

Even though basal cell carcinoma is considered the most common, slowest-growing skin cancer, wondering and waiting is never a good idea. Most basal cell carcinomas are easily if detected early. Some basal cell carcinomas grow so slowly that they’re overlooked until they’ve been there for some time.
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Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Basal Cell Carcinoma Care

Knowing the signs and symptoms of basal cell carcinoma is important for getting timely and effective treatment. If you have a bothersome growth or mole, or something doesn’t seem “right,” don’t wait. Schedule an appointment with one of the world-recognized cancer care leaders at NewYork-Presbyterian.

At NewYork-Presbyterian, we don’t just treat cancer, we treat the whole person. Our cancer care support groups and facilities are here to help you return to your healthiest self.