When you hear “Mohs micrographic surgery” you might feel alarmed. For one, “surgery” can be a scary word. Plus “Mohs micrographic surgery” is a long, intimidating name. However, Mohs micrographic surgery is a relatively non-invasive outpatient procedure that is highly effective for removing the most common forms of skin cancer. Learn the basics of Mohs surgery and four conditions that would make Mohs skin cancer surgery the recommended procedure for your cancer treatment.
Mohs surgery was developed in the early 20th century by Frederich Mohs and then improved and advanced around the world in the 1970s by Perry Robins, the founder of the Skin Cancer Foundation. It remains the most successful and least invasive surgery in treating common skin carcinomas, such as basal and squamous cell skin cancers. It can also be a treatment for melanoma skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that Mohs surgery has a 99% cure rate for skin cancer that has not been treated before and a 94% cure rate for cancers that have received previous treatment.
During the procedure, a local anesthetic is administered and the doctor starts to carefully shave thin layers of skin from the affected area. After each layer is removed, it is examined microscopically to determine if the layer contains skin cancer. The doctor continues to painstakingly remove layers until all of the skin cancer has been eliminated. This careful procedure ensures that none of the cancerous cells remain while also minimizing scarring and the unnecessary removal of healthy skin. This is especially helpful for removal of cancers like basal cell carcinoma that tend to grow downward and outward, under the visible lesion. The layer-by-layer removal ensures that all of the cancer is removed, even the cells deeper in the tissue.
One reason your doctor might recommend Mohs surgery is if your skin cancer is in an area that is highly visible (like your nose or your neck), has little tissue underneath (such as around the eyes), or is functionally important (like your fingers or your genitals). Because Mohs surgery is so good at avoiding the removal of healthy tissue, there is less scarring than with other procedures and surgeries. Some cancer-removal procedures can leave a sizable hole in the treated area. Not so with Mohs surgery. Also, because the analysis of the treated tissue happens on the same day as the surgery, you won’t have to go back in for additional surgeries, which could increase the chance for scarring. Additionally, you can get reconstructive surgery with surrounding tissue done the same day because the doctor can be sure that the surrounding tissue is cancer-free.
Fast growing cancers have a higher risk of returning. Mohs exact removal of a lesion helps cut the risk of the cancer returning. As the doctor examines the layers that have been removed, he or she can tell if the cancer is displaying more aggressive characteristics and can give a more generous margin to the area that is excised. Mohs surgery is also recommended for larger tumors (bigger than ⅘ of an inch), as it can help preserve healthy tissue surrounding the tumor and leave minimal scarring, even around a larger lesion.
Because your doctor can be so precise in distinguishing between malignant and benign tissue, Mohs surgery is an ideal surgery for skin cancers that have indistinct edges. As you doctor removes and examines layer after layer of skin, he or she can be sure to eliminate all edges of the lesion until only healthy tissue remains.
Getting cancer-free margins with lesion-removal greatly reduces the risk of the cancer recurring. Mohs is the “gold standard” of precise lesion removal and will be recommended by your dermatologist if you are diagnosed with a cancer that is more likely to recur.
Contact Vanguard Dermatology today to schedule a consultation for Mohs micrographic surgery. The experienced dermatologists at Vanguard in the greater New York City area can diagnose skin basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma, and use Mohs surgery to eliminate the threat of cancer.