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  You are at: Procedure info > Skin cancer > Rodent Ulcers (Basal cell carcinoma)
   
   

Rodent Ulcers (Basal Cell Carcinoma)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a rodent ulcer?

Rodent ulcers (known by doctors as Basal cell carcinoma, or BCC) is a malignant cancer of the skin. It is the most common form of tumour, accounting for approximately 800,000 cases per year in the USA and about 100,000 cases per year in the UK. It is also commonly known as 'rodent ulcer', a term from many years ago given because of the 'gnawed' appearance that very large BCCs can have.

 

What do Basal Cell Carcinomas (rodent ulcers) look like?

There are different types of rodent ulcer, each looking slightly different:

  • Superficial rodent ulcers look like a flat red scaly patch of skin, which can vary from a few millimetres to a few centimetres in size

  • Nodular rodent ulcers tend to be firm growths that start as small 'spots'. They are flesh-coloured, but close inspection may reveal very fine blood vessels coursing into the growth

  • Infiltrative rodent ulcers tend to be relatively flat growths, but can form scabs in their middle

  • Morphoeic rodent ulcers look very much like scar tissue, and can get to a fair size before they are even noticed

 

To see pictures of skin cancers, including rodent ulcers, please click here

 

In general, rodent ulcers are often mistaken as simple 'spots'. As they slowly grow they can start to itch and bleed but hardly ever cause pain. Like all skin growths, diagnosis of rodent ulcers can be difficult, and if you have any worries about a skin growth, seek medical advice immediately.

 

 

Can rodent ulcers spread?

Whilst there have been a few reports of rodent ulcers spreading elsewhere, these are extremely rare. Rodent ulcers do need treating, though, as they can grow larger and deeper. As they grow they will destroy normal tissue; a rodent ulcer near the eye can therefore grow into the eye, an ulcer on the ear can destroy the ear cartilage, etc. Rodent ulcers on the scalp can grow into the skull, with potentially serious consequences.

 

 

What causes rodent ulcers?

There are a number of risk factors, the most prominent being:

  • Sun exposure - this seems to be the most important risk factor. The sunlight risk looks set to worsen with a depletion of the protective Sun exposure is a major risk factor for BCCsozone layer.

  • Genetic - there are a few genetic conditions, such as Gorlin's syndrome, that predispose to rodent ulcer formation

  • Colour - Red hair, pale complexion and blue eyes all increase rodent ulcer risk

  • Skin type - skin that burns easily and tans poorly is more at risk of rodent ulcers

  • Immunosuppression - people that have certain cancers such as lymphoma or those that are taking immunosuppression drugs (eg transplant patients) have a higher risk of rodent ulcers

 

 

How are rodent ulcers treated?

There are a number of ways that rodent ulcers can be treated. For more information on treatment options, please click here.

 

Are any other tests needed?

Blood tests and scans are usually not required unless if a general anaesthetic is needed, or if the specialist suspects the rodent ulcer has invaded into deeper areas such as the skull.

 

What happens after rodent ulcer treatment?

If your specialist feels that the ulcer has been completely removed, then no other follow-up may be necessary. Some rodent ulcers, however, have a higher risk of recurrence than others (such as those near the eye) - these may require follow-up in clinic for up to five years. The specialist will be looking for any firm lumps or changes in the scar area, or any BCCs starting elsewhere.

Having had one rodent ulcer, there are increased risks of getting another. A medical opinion should therefore be sought for any future suspicious growths.

 

What are the overall risks to life?

As rodent ulcers hardly ever spread elsewhere, the risks to life from spreads are practically nil. If a rodent ulcerhas invaded the skull, however, then further growth can pose a potential risk to life - fortunately this is a rare occurrence

 

How can rodent ulcers be avoided?

Whilst the risks can never be zero, you can reduce your risks greatly with some simple steps:

  • Stay out of the sun, especially between 11am and 3pm, when it is most strong

  • Wear high factor sun cream if you need to go out in the sun (eg sports)

  • Reapply sun cream regularly and especially after swimming

  • Wear sun-protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and hats

  • Never get sunburnt, and keep children out of the sun

 

To see pictures of skin cancers, including rodent ulcers, please click here

 

Other SurgeryWise articles

You may also be interested to read our articles on actinic keratosis, melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma or moles.

 

 

The information provided is as a guide only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding on the right procedure for you. If you have any concerns about a skin growth, seek medical advice immediately. Please also read our disclaimer

 

 

 
 
 
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