The following are treatment options for basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Treatment plans are designed to meet the unique needs of each person with cancer. Treatment decisions for BCC are based on:
Surgery is the primary treatment for basal cell carcinoma. The types of surgery that may be offered for BCC include:
Cryosurgery may be used to treat low-risk BCC (small tumours with well-defined borders). It is not used for larger tumours or for tumours involving the nose, ears, eyelids, scalp or legs.
Radiation therapy may be the primary treatment for some BCC and is the main treatment used as an alternative to surgery. External beam radiation therapy is used as a primary treatment for:
Radiation therapy may be used after surgery (adjuvant therapy):
Topical chemotherapy may be used to treat low-risk, superficial BCC. The most common topical chemotherapy drug is 5-fluorouracil (5-FU, Efudex). Close follow-up is needed because this treatment does not destroy any cancer cells that are deep under the surface of the skin.
It is very rare for BCC to spread to other parts of the body, so systemic chemotherapy is rarely used to treat BCC. Systemic chemotherapy may be used to treat uncontrolled local disease or metastatic BCC. Although chemotherapy will not cure the cancer, it may slow the growth of the cancer and relieve symptoms.
Photodynamic therapy may be used to treat superficial BCC. Close follow-up is needed because this treatment does not destroy any cancer cells that are deep under the surface of the skin.
Biological therapy is not commonly used to treat BCC, but it may be used to treat superficial BCC. Imiquimod (Aldara or Zyclara) is a cream that is applied directly to the tumour. Close follow-up is needed because this treatment does not destroy any cancer cells that are deep under the surface of the skin.
Targeted therapy may be used to treat BCC. Vismodegib (Erivedge) is a drug that targets molecules on cancer cells that help send signals that tell the cells to grow or divide. Vismodegib is sometimes used to treat advanced or metastatic BCC when someone can’t or doesn’t want to have surgery or radiation therapy.
People with BCC may be offered the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. For more information, go to clinical trials.
A clinical trial led by the Society’s NCIC Clinical Trials group found that men with prostate cancer who are treated with intermittent courses of hormone therapy live as long as those receiving continuous therapy.