New therapies are now available for treating BCCs (basal cell carcinomas), the most common skin cancer.
BCCs occur mostly on sun exposed areas, particularly the face and neck, and typically affect fair-skinned adults who have had a lot of past sun exposure.
BCCs are usually either 'nodular' (a flesh coloured or pearly lump, often with small blood vessels or a crust on the surface) or 'superficial' (a flat, pink, scaly patch).
BCCs grow slowly over months or years. They rarely spread to other areas but can become very large and destroy nearby tissues.
New non-surgical treatments
Most BCCs are surgically removed. Other methods are freezing, curetting (scooping out with a sharp spoon) and radiation.
Two new non-surgical treatments are now available and are useful when surgery is inappropriate, such as for large or multiple BCCs or for 'cosmetically sensitive' areas where less scarring is wanted.
- Imiquimod cream is applied directly to superficial tumours and activates the body's own immune system to attack and destroy the cancerous cells. You use it yourself at home 5 times per week for 6 weeks.
The cream is generally well tolerated, but may cause redness and scaling of the skin with itching and burning.
Imiquimod can be purchased on a private script and may be eligible for health fund rebates. It is subsidised by Veterans Affairs.
- PDT (photodynamic therapy) involves applying a cream to the BCC followed by exposure to a special red light. Two sessions are usually needed 1-4 weeks apart. PDT can be used for superficial and nodular BCCs.
See your GP for a check if you have a suspicious spot. Your GP is well qualified to assess and treat most skin conditions. Skin Cancer Clinics are manned by GPs and offer no advantage over your doctor's care.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.