Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be terrifying. But it doesn’t have to be. Because of its high visibility, skin cancer can easily be caught early and treated successfully. One of the most successful skin cancer treatments is called Mohs micrographic surgery. Learn why Mohs skin cancer surgery is so widely used and recommended by dermatologists.
If you have a common skin cancer, like basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), your dermatologist will probably recommend Mohs. This is especially true if your growth is large or aggressive, has hard-to-define edges, is a returning growth or is in a sensitive area or in an area with little tissue below the growth, such as on your face, hands, feet, or genitals. Sometimes your dermatologist will recommend Mohs as a melanoma skin cancer treatment if that melanoma is in an early stage of growth and is a lentigo malignant melanoma, which remains close to the surface of the skin. Mohs is also used to remove some more rare skin cancers, like Merkel cell melanoma.
Mohs micrographic surgery is a procedure that has been around for decades. It’s time-tested and is considered to be the gold standard for the removal of certain types of skin cancers, like basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs). Typically, Mohs is done as an outpatient surgery by a dermatologist who has received substantial training in the procedure. Usually, the patient stays awake during the procedure.
Mohs starts with the doctor administering a local anesthetic to the area that is going to be treated. Once the area is numbed, the doctor removes the visible portion of the cancerous growth. The doctor then begins the process of methodically shaving thin layers of skin from under and around the growth. After each layer is removed, the doctor takes the skin to be examined microscopically to determine if the skin still contains cancerous cells. While the examination is taking place, the patient sits in a waiting room and is able to eat, drink, read or do work. Once the doctor is assured that all of the cancerous cells have been removed, the wound can be stitched and a bandage put over the closed wound.
The patient may need to have a minor skin graft to effectively cover the treated area. Occasionally, the patient will be referred to a plastic surgeon for further work to reduce scarring. The entire process can take a few hours, so the patient should plan their schedule accordingly.
The most important benefit of Mohs is its high cure rate. Mohs has a 99% cure rate for cancers that have not received prior treatment and a 94% cure rate for recurring cancers. Because the doctor performing Mohs can tell during the procedure whether or not all the cancer cells have been removed, there is a much higher chance that all of the growth is removed, including any cancer cells at the border of the growth. Another huge advantage of Mohs is its low level of invasiveness. Mohs is so precise that the doctor does not need to remove any more tissue than is absolutely necessary. This is especially helpful for cancers that occur on high-visibility areas of the body, like the face and hands, where anyone would be self-conscious of extra scarring.
It’s vital that you are taking preventative measures to protect yourself from skin cancer. Most skin cancer is caused by exposure to UV rays from the sun. Dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher anytime you are going to be in the sun. Wearing a daily facial moisturizer with an SPF of 30 or higher is highly recommended.
A lot of sun exposure happens during regular, daily activities, like when driving or walking around outside. This includes days that are cold and/or cloudy. If you are in the sun for a prolonged amount of time, wear protective clothing and sunglasses. You should also perform routine checks of your body in front of a full-length mirror and with a hand mirror to see more of hidden areas. Scheduling an annual skin check with your dermatologist is also important for making sure you don’t have any precancerous growths or skin cancer at any stage of growth. Early detection is crucial in successful skin cancer treatment.
Call Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area to schedule your annual skin cancer screening or to see if you need Mohs surgery. The board-certified doctors at Vanguard are trained to perform Mohs surgery and to guide you in your skin cancer preventative measures.