What are the treatments for basal cell carcinoma (BCC)?

BCC is treated by removing it. The choice of treatment depends on many things, including patient health and age, the location of the tumor, and the extent and type of the cancer. Treatment may occur in many ways:

  • Scratching off with a curette, an instrument that may end in a ring or a spoon, and then burning with a special electric needle. This method is called electrodessication and curettage.
  • Surgical removal
    • Mohs surgery: This is a specialized technique. The doctor first removes the visible cancer and then begins cutting around the edges. The tissues are examined during the surgery until no more cancer cells are found in tissues around the wound. If necessary, a skin graft or flap might be applied to help the wound heal.
    • Excisional surgery: The growth and a bit of surrounding skin is removed with a scalpel.
  • Freezing (cryotherapy or cryosurgery)
  • Applying chemotherapy medication to the skin
  • Using lasers
  • Using blue light and a light-sensitive agent applied to the skin (photodynamic therapy or PDT)
  • Using radiation (rare)

If the BCC has advanced locally or spread (metastasized) to another location, which is very rare for BCC, the FDA has approved two medicines: vismodegib (Eviredge™) and sonidegib (Odomzo®). These drugs are of a class called hedgehog inhibitors.

What are the complications/side effects of the treatments for basal cell carcinoma (BCC)?

Most of the complications related to BCC treatments other than the hedgehog inhibitors are cosmetic, such as scarring or redness.

People who use sonidegib or vismodegib should make sure to use effective birth control to avoid pregnancy due to the risk of birth defects. In addition, sonidegib has other potential risks, including problems with nerves and muscles.

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