Basal Cell Carcinoma | Treatments | MedStar Health

Most patients make a full recovery with the right treatment.

There are several different treatment options available for basal cell carcinoma. Your doctor will recommend the best one for you, considering the tumor's size, location, and depth. Your treatment options may also vary based on whether or not this tumor was treated before and returned. Most treatments are performed as outpatient procedures in your doctor's office.


Surgery is one of the most common treatments, and there are different procedures that may be used:

  • Cryosurgery: In cryosurgery, liquid nitrogen is applied to the growth to freeze and kill the abnormal cells. After the area thaws, the dead tissue falls off. Your doctor may need to perform more than one freezing to remove the growth completely. Cryosurgery is virtually painless, but it's normal to have some pain and swelling after the area thaws. A white scar may form in the treated area.
  • Laser therapy: This treatment uses a narrow beam of light to remove or destroy cancer cells in the outer layer of skin.
  • Curettage and electrodessication: If a tumor is found on your arms, legs, or trunk, your doctor will numb the area before scraping away the cancerous tissue. An electric current from a special machine is used to control bleeding and kill any cancer cells remaining around the edge of the wound. Most patients develop a flat, white scar.
  • Mohs surgery: This is a specialized procedure that must be performed by a doctor trained in Mohs micrographic surgery. It involves scraping out the lesion, layer by layer until the entire tumor is removed. It requires extreme precision and can be time-consuming, but it's an incredibly effective way to remove the tumor and preserve healthy tissue.
  • Surgical excision: If the cancer is more advanced, your surgeon may remove the tumor and a small margin of healthy tissue around it to ensure it's entirely removed.

Because these cancers often affect sensitive areas of the body, like the face, ears, scalp, or neck, you can expect us to take great care in preserving your appearance. For larger or complex tumors, your treatment may involve reconstructive surgery to close wounds with the best possible cosmetic outcome.


For a small, early-stage basal cell carcinoma with a low risk of returning, your doctor may recommend topical chemotherapy. This is a lotion or cream that uses anticancer drugs. It's applied directly to the skin, where it kills cancerous cells in the top layer.

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Immunotherapy and targeted therapy

These treatments are effective in treating other more aggressive skin cancers but are not generally used to treat basal cell carcinoma.

Learn More About Immunotherapy

Learn More About Targeted Therapy

Radiation therapy

If the tumor is very large or complex, your care team may recommend radiation therapy. This is a painless treatment that uses high-energy rays to treat basal cell and other skin cancers. We offer the most advanced forms of this therapy available today, and your doctor will recommend the right modality, frequency, and dosage for your unique case. They'll also work closely with you to minimize any side effects around the treated area.

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Looking for expert cancer care?

With multiple locations throughout the region, patients have access to many of the nation’s renowned cancer specialists offering high quality care, second opinions and a chance for better outcomes close to where they live and work. Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the nation’s comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), serves as the research engine allowing patients access to clinical trials that often lead to breakthroughs in cancer care.

Our locations

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MedStar Health: Dermatology at Chevy Chase

5530 Wisconsin Ave
The Chevy Chase Bldg.
Ste. 730
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

MedStar Health: Dermatology at Lafayette Centre

1133 21st St. NW
Building 2
5th Floor
Washington, D.C., 20036

MedStar Health: Dermatology at MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Suite 1A50A
Washington, D.C., 20010

MedStar Health: Dermatology in Washington D.C.

106 Irving St. NW
Physician's Office Bldg. South
Ste. 410
Washington, D.C., 20010

Why choose us

Our skin cancer experts are experienced leaders in diagnosing and treating these diseases. Our dermatologists, dermatopathologists, surgical, medical, and radiation oncologists, head and neck specialists, and other doctors have decades of combined experience finding and treating basal cell carcinomas—both common and complex. Whether you have an easily-treatable tumor or metastatic basal cell carcinoma, you can count on us to quickly and effectively treat your cancer using the approach that will lead to the best oncologic, cosmetic, and functional outcomes.

We offer timely second opinions in-person and virtually. Regardless of your location, you can get a fast second opinion consultation with one of our skin cancer experts. A second opinion appointment can confirm your diagnosis and treatment options, providing reassurance in your treatment decision. In other cases, it may reveal additional information and options that you wouldn't have known otherwise. Our goal is to help you feel confident that you're receiving the best possible care.

We're proactive about monitoring and managing your risk for additional skin cancers. Once you've been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, your risk increases for developing other skin cancers, including melanoma. As part of your survivorship plan, we'll recommend a screening regimen and regular checkups to ensure we catch any warning signs of recurring or new skin cancers early.

Awards and recognition

Recipient of an Accreditation with Commendation, the highest level of approval, from the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer (CoC)

Numerous surgeons, medical oncologists, and surgical oncologists recognized as "Top Doctors" by both Baltimore Magazine and the Washingtonian

Magnet® designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

Clinical trials and research

Clinical trials

Clinical trials help us find new and better skin cancer treatments. We regularly participate in clinical studies that benefit our patients today and those in the future.

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Through our research engine, the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, we remain at the forefront of the latest diagnostic, therapeutic, and surgical approaches for treating both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, like basal cell carcinoma.

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Support services

We're here to help you deal with any impacts of your treatment and stay healthy, even after you're cancer-free. You'll benefit from a wide range of programs and services to care for your physical, emotional, and mental health.

Learn More About Cancer Support Services

Genetic counseling

Although this cancer isn't generally caused by hereditary conditions, it can be helpful to talk to a board-certified genetic counselor, especially if you have a personal or family history of any cancer. Genetic counseling can help you learn about your genetic risks for disease and take steps to manage these risks.

Learn More About Genetic Counseling

Personalized rehabilitation

If your tumor is located in a part of the body that is functionally sensitive, physical therapy can help you to restore your range of motion and strength after treatment. Our team of rehabilitation experts will work together to personalize a therapy plan to address your unique needs.

Learn More About Cancer Rehabilitation


While this cancer is often easily curable, having one skin cancer increases your risk of developing another. Your care team will design an individualized survivorship plan that will recommend regular checkups to monitor for any recurrence. This ensures that we can quickly spot something early if it returns.

Learn More About the Cancer Survivorship Program