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Rodent Ulcer (Basal Cell Carcinoma)

What is a rodent ulcer?

A rodent ulcer is a form of skin cancer. It is also known as a basal cell carcinoma. 

What causes a rodent ulcer?

A rodent ulcer may arise due to excessive exposure to sunlight in the past, due to a genetic predisposition towards the formation of these skin cancers or due to exposure to extreme doses of radiation (these are not used in modern radiotherapy). 

What are the different types of rodent ulcer or basal cell carcinomas?

There are different types of rodent ulcers and these have different appearances.  The different types are:

1. Nodular basal cell carcinoma

2. Ulcerated basal cell carcinoma

3. Pigmented basal cell carcinoma

4. Morpheic basal cell carcinoma

5. Field fire type

How is a rodent ulcer or basal cell carcinoma treated?

Very early basal cell carcinomas which are extremely superficial may sometimes be treated by the application of a topical cream known as 5 fluorouracil.  However most basal cell carcinomas need to be excised surgically. 

Does a rodent ulcer or basal cell carcinoma spread?

A basal cell carcinoma in itself is not known to spread or metastasise to the lymph nodes and the blood stream. 

Very rarely does the lesion have a squamous component and it is then called a basi-squamous carcinoma.  These basi-squamous carcinomas can occasionally spread into the lymph nodes.  This is however extremely rare. 

What does surgery for a rodent ulcer or basal cell carcinoma involve?

Most procedures can be carried out under local anaesthetic as outpatient or day case procedures. 

Small lesions can be excised and closed directly leading to a fine line scar. 

Larger lesions may need either a skin graft or a skin flap for and adjacent area to heal the defect in the skin following excision of the original basal cell carcinoma. 

It is unusual for patients to require a general anaesthetic and hospital admission for small lesions. 

What aftercare do I require following excision of a rodent ulcer or basal cell carcinoma?

Following your surgery you will be asked to attend a dressing clinic where the specialist nurses will remove your sutures approximately one week following the operation.  You will have an appointment to come and see me approximately two weeks following your surgery when I will be able to discuss the histology result with you.  In most cases I will see you at the end of three months to ensure that the scar has healed well and that there is no sign of recurrence of the original lesion. 

Unless there are unusual features in your histology report I will discharge you back to your general practitioners care at the end of three months. 

Where can I get more information about rodent ulcers or basal cell carcinomas?

A sensible site to visit is www.cancerbackup.org.uk. This site is written by doctors, nurses and patients and presents the available information on skin cancer in a readable and non-sensationalised format. It will provide you with good background information on why certain treatments or tests are being carried out and what you can expect during the course of your treatment.

The MacMillan Cancer Trust page on basal cell carcinoma is also worth visiting.

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Rodent ulcer (basal cell carcinoma)


Rodent ulcer (basal cell carcinoma)


Rodent ulcer (basal cell carcinoma)


Rodent ulcer (basal cell carcinoma)


Ulcerated basal cell carcinoma (rodent ulcer)


Rodent ulcer (basal cell carcinoma): excision and flap


Rodent ulcer: V-Y advancement flap


Treatment of nodular basal cell carcinoma with Bilobed flap


Nodular basal cell carcinoma (rodent ulcer)

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