Most basal cell carcinomas may be treated by one of the following methods. The choice of treatment is influenced by:

  • Size, location, type, and grade of tumour
  • Person’s age and health
  • Whether the tumour is primary or has come back after treatment (recurred)
  • Availability of the treatment

The following represent the range of treatments of available for basal cell carcinoma:

Curettage and Electrodesiccation (C & E)

  • Used for small lesions that are less than 2 cm
  • Not used for lesions on areas where the cancer is likely to recur (nose, lips, eyelids, ears, scalp, temple)

Surgery (Wide Excision)

  • The tumour is removed along with a margin of cancer-free skin

Mohs Micrographic Surgery

Used for all types of basal cell cancers. Most commonly used to treat:

    – areas that are at high risk of recurrence (eyelids, nose, ears, forehead, scalp), as well as lesions that have already recurred

– lesions that are larger than 2 cm, as well as lesions with poorly defined borders

– areas where maintaining function and appearance are important

– invasive lesions that have spread to underlying cartilage or bone

– tumours that have been left untreated for a long time

– people with nevus basal cell carcinoma syndrome

– it involves a meticulous study of tissues removed by a pathologist at the time of surgery

Radiation Therapy

    Used for:
    – small to medium sized primary basal cell carcinoma lesions

– ensuring cancer free margins after surgery

– lesions that have recurred after surgery

– relief or to control symptoms of very large tumours

– people who are unable or unwilling to undergo surgery

Not used for:

    – people with nevus basal cell carcinoma syndrome
    – sclerosing or morpheaform Basal Cell Carcinoma


Topical chemotherapy (5-Fluorouracil (5-FU)) may be used for:

    – superficial tumours

– people who are unwilling or unable to undergo surgery or radiation

– people with nevus basal cell carcinoma syndrome

– the elderly who can’t tolerate other treatments

– systemic chemotherapy may be used for basal cell carcinoma that has spread to other parts of the body

Immune Response Modifiers

Imiquimod 5% Cream (Aldara™) has recently been approved in Canada and the US to treat Superficial Basal Cell Cancer (sBCC)

    – Imiquimod’s novel mechanism of action stimulates the body’s own natural defenses to target diseased tissue
    – It stimulates the innate immune response through interferon-a production, as well as acquired immunity by activating T-helper 1 cells
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