You’ve gotten the news -- it’s skin cancer. While this is a scary diagnosis, the good news is that there is a procedure that is known to effectively eliminate skin cancer, from the center of the growth to the surrounding tissue. Discover the process of Mohs micrographic surgery and the reasons why it is an excellent choice for treating skin cancer.
Mohs micrographic surgery, often simply referred to as “Mohs surgery,” is a technique that doctors use to remove skin cancer with precision and accuracy. Mohs surgery is used to remove a variety of skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It’s also used as a treatment for melanoma skin cancer. In the Mohs procedure, layers of skin are meticulously removed and examined until no skin cancer remains.
Mohs skin cancer surgery has been used by doctors for decades and has become known as the gold standard for the treatment of skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation describes Mohs surgery as having the highest cure rate among skin cancer treatments and lowest recurrence rates. Johns Hopkins reports that Mohs has a 99 percent success rate because 100 percent of the cancer’s margins can be evaluated, in contrast to less than 5 percent by other procedures. One of its benefits is the accuracy that doctors have in removing skin cancer. Because each layer of skin that is removed is examined during the surgery, doctors are able to excise only the tissue affected by the skin cancer without removing surrounding healthy tissue. This is especially helpful for treating skin cancer in areas that have thin tissue, like the eyelid, hand or ear, or in highly visible or sensitive areas, like the face or genitals, where you want to preserve as much tissue as possible. Because of its precision, Mohs surgery is helpful for treating skin cancer lesions that are large or have uneven borders. It’s also recommended for aggressive cancers, cancers with high rates of recurrence, and cancers that develop in people who have a suppressed immune system (like organ transplant patients). Mohs surgery also has the benefit of being an outpatient procedure, typically performed with a local anesthetic. Additionally, because the removed tissue is examined during the surgery, you immediately know the results of the Mohs surgery.
If you are having Mohs surgery, you can be assured your doctor is experienced; he or she will have received considerable training in the Mohs technique. You can expect that your surgery will take place in a clinic that also has a laboratory. The surgery will start with your doctor numbing the area with a local anesthetic where your skin cancer is located. First, the visible skin cancer will be removed. Then, your doctor will start shaving thin layers of tissue and taking them to the laboratory to analyze whether or not they are cancerous. Your doctor will use stains to dye the tissue for analysis under a microscope. While this examination is taking place, you will sit in a waiting room with a bandage over your wound. Generally, you will wait about an hour and can read, eat or drink, unless the procedure is taking place around your mouth. If skin cancer is found in the excised tissue, you will have another layer of tissue removed. Your doctor will be able to target and remove the cancerous tissue while leaving the healthy tissue intact. You can expect that the entire surgery will take a few hours.
Once your doctor knows that all of the skin cancer has been removed, he or she will decide on the best treatment for your wound’s healing. Often, this involves putting stitches in the area that received the surgery. Your doctor may also use a skin flap to close the wound or a skin graft from another part of your body, like behind your ear. If needed, your doctor may refer you to another surgeon for reconstructive surgery. You will leave the doctor’s office with a bandage over the treated area, knowing that all traces of your skin cancer were removed. You may have a follow-up appointment with your doctor so they can check on the healing of your surgery site.
Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area has experienced dermatologists trained in the Mohs surgery technique. Contact Vanguard today to schedule a skin cancer check or a Mohs procedure.