Due to major advancements in medicine and technology, innovative and effective types of new treatment for skin cancer often make for sensational headlines. Yet, one technique has withstood the test of time – Mohs micrographic surgery (MMS), developed in the 1930s by Dr. Frederick Mohs.
This procedure has regained popularity in the past decade due to various improvements in the technique as well as its extreme effectiveness in treating a wide variety of skin cancers. The staff of cosmetic and medical skin experts at West Dermatology in Arizona, Nevada, and California is proud to offer MMS for patients in a comfortable, safe environment.
If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer or need a screening, call West Dermatology at 888-554-8740 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. We have locations in Arizona, Nevada, and California. Mohs surgery for skin cancer or other treatment options may be the most effective treatment for your skin cancer treatment needs.
What is Mohs?
Mohs surgery is a precise surgical procedure for treating skin cancer through a special integration of pathology and surgery. During this highly detailed procedure, cancer-infected skin is progressively removed and examined, layer by layer, until nothing but healthy, cancer-free tissue is left.
Small portions of your skin are frozen and stained with special dyes to be examined under a microscope, allowing a specialist to examine each layer for malignant cells immediately. Once cancer cells are absent from an examined layer, nothing else is removed and the area is considered clear of the tumor. This technique does not damage surrounding tissue because only tissue known to have the cancer cells is removed, which gives Mohs surgery its high success rate.
Depending on the extent of your cancer and, thus, the Mohs surgery itself, your surgeon will either close the small surgical wound immediately or let the wound heal on its own.
Why Undergo Mohs?
Even though the Mohs surgery procedure has survived for over eight decades, it’s the most effective procedure for removing basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. The main goal of any Mohs surgery is complete skin cancer removal with as little damage to the surrounding healthy tissue as possible.
This is feasible because your surgeon inspects each layer of tissue for cancer cells as it’s removed. Under traditional excisional surgery, the entire visible cancer, as well as a small margin of healthy tissue, is removed to ensure that all the infected cells are removed. Not only is this inefficient, but it also does not guarantee the full removal of cancerous tissue.
With the Mohs technique, there is no estimating how deep or widespread the cancer is; the specially designed stains show whether or not cancer cells are present. The guesswork in traditional skin cancer removal is replaced by precise knowledge of cancer’s reach, and you get the best medical and cosmetic results.
Mohs Surgery is Successful in Treating Which Cancers?
Mohs surgery is the treatment of choice for both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, but it’s also an effective technique for other kinds of cancer, as well.
Particularly, this skin cancer treatment technique is useful for the following:
- Recurrent cancers
- Tumors in, around, or near sensitive areas, such as your mouth, eyes, nose, ears, hands, feet, hairline, and genitals
- Large tumors having hard-to-define borders
- Aggressive tumors
As Mohs is a surgical procedure, it comes with risks similar to those of other surgeries, especially in or around the treated area(s):
- Pain or tenderness
In general, these post-op complications are mild and short-lived, although it depends on the extent of the surgery and your own reaction to the procedure.
What to Expect During a Mohs Procedure
Typically, the surgery is performed on an outpatient basis using a local anesthetic. You should expect the Mohs surgery process to take up most, if not all, of your day because it takes time to remove and examine each layer of tissue, but it all depends on how extensive your particular skin tumor is.
Prior to the procedure, you’re administered a local anesthetic. Once it starts working, any visible portion of your cancer is removed along with a thin layer underneath. This layer is then examined in a lab, during which time you’ll be free to read a book, use the bathroom, do some work, or just rest.
If it’s determined that any part of your cancerous cells still remain, the Mohs surgery continues and the process repeated as many times as is necessary to fully excise all of your cancer.
Once it has all been removed, the wound will need to be repaired. Your skin care specialist could let it heal on its own, stitch it up on the spot, or do a skin graft to cover the wound. If your surgery was extensive, thus making repairing the wound an arduous process, your physician may decide that cosmetic or reconstructive surgery is necessary to repair the wound.
To learn more about skin cancer treatment, visit WebMD.com.
A major advantage of Mohs surgery is immediate results, which means you don’t go home until all of your skin cancer has been removed. However, you still should have a follow-up visit to check your recovery and make sure you’re healing properly.
Mohs surgery has a high success rate in curing skin cancer, but as with most cancers, you’ll always have a small risk of recurrence or of the development of another skin cancer. It’s believed that around 50% of those who’ve had skin cancer will develop another skin cancer in a separate location, usually within in the first five years of the original cancer.
Therefore, be proactive in following up with your skin care specialist. This will help diagnose any return of cancer and, if done regularly, such a diagnosis can be made early enough to give you a better chance to treat it successfully.
Discuss Mohs Surgery with Experienced Dermatologists
To learn more about Mohs surgery and how it can successfully treat your skin cancer, contact West Dermatology today by filling out our online contact form or calling us to schedule an informative consultation with our team.
Next, read about Photodynamic Therapy.