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Dr. Mayzik
Although basal cell carcinoma, or BCC, is not usually fatal, it can be disfiguring, especially if it’s not treated right away. Early diagnosis is crucial to successful treatment. Dr. Alvarado, can you tell us about how BCC is diagnosed?

Dr. Alvarado
Absolutely, Dr. Mayzik. In order to diagnose any type of skin cancer, providers generally begin with a medical and family history and a physical exam. A thorough skin exam may include a test called dermoscopy, which utilizes a lighted magnifying instrument to see suspicious areas of the skin more clearly.

One or more skin biopsy procedures may also be recommended. The four most common types of skin biopsies are punch biopsy, incisional biopsy, excisional biopsy, and shave biopsy.

In rare cases, imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans may be used as well. Early diagnosis of skin cancer is important, so treatment can begin as soon as possible.

If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, your risk of developing more skin cancers in the future is higher. Regular follow-up for skin cancer patients is very important to catch cancers early. Your frequency of skin exams should be determined by your dermatologist, but at a minimum should be annual.