Mohs Surgery – Advanced Treatment for Skin Cancer
More than 1.2 million people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer each year. A diagnosis of skin cancer is a cause for concern. If left untreated, the disease can continue to progress. However, it should not be a cause for panic. Skin cancer is not necessarily life threatening nor does its therapy have to be disfiguring. Advanced treatments are available that offer the highest potential for cure while minimizing the cosmetic impact (even if previous treatments have failed). Not all treatments for skin cancer are equal.
Options range from common treatments offered by many physicians such as scraping and burning, freezing, radiation and routine excision to Mohs Surgery, an advanced surgical technique performed by a highly trained skin cancer specialist. You should be aware of the benefits and drawbacks of various options and choose the treatment that will remove all the cancer, minimize the risk of recurrence and leave as little scarring as possible.
It is important to recognize that not all cancer cells are apparent to the naked eye. Many “invisible” cells may form roots or “fingers” of diseased tissue that can extend beyond the boundaries of the visible cancer. If these cancer cells are not completely removed, they can lead to regrowth and recurrence of the tumor. The types of cancer which most likely form these complicated root systems are those located in cosmetically sensitive or functionally critical areas (around the eyes, nose, lips, or scalp), grow rapidly and/or uncontrollably, or have been previously treated.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
For these cancers, common treatment methods are often not successful because they rely on the human eye to determine the extent of the cancer. These methods may remove too little cancer, causing a recurrence requiring an additional surgery (not to mention unnecessary scarring). The scar tissue surrounding a recurrent cancer makes it extremely challenging to differentiate between healthy skin and cancerous tissue and further complicated the determination of how much tissue to remove. The likelihood of curing a recurring cancer once again (using one of the common methods) is unlikely.
Positive Results With Mohs Micrographic Surgery
Mohs micrographic surgery is a state-of-the-art treatment option for skin cancer in which the physician serves as surgeon, pathologist, and reconstructive surgeon. It relies on the precision and accuracy of a microscope to trace and ensure the removal of skin cancer, down to its roots. Of all treatments for skin cancer, Mohs micrographic surgery offers the highest cure rate (up to 99% based on data for treating basal and squamous cell carcinoma), has the lowest chance of regrowth, minimizes the potential for scarring or disfigurement, and is the most exact and precise means of removal. Quick Resolution and Rapid Recovery Mohs micrographic surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis, under local anesthesia. The healing process is similar to that of most surgical procedures.
For decades, Mohs Micrographic surgery has proven effective in getting to the roots of skin cancer by combining the surgical removal of cancer with the immediate microscopic examination of the tumor and underlying diseased tissue. This process allows a dermatologist trained in Mohs surgery to see beyond the visible disease and precisely identify and remove the entire tumor and nothing but the tumor. Mohs surgeons are dermatologist who have extensive knowledge of the skin and its healing properties, as well as training in reconstructive surgery. They are best suited to understand wound management, which helps produce the best cosmetic result. Most Mohs surgeons will perform the reconstructive surgery necessary to repair the wound at the time of surgery.
Mohs micrographic surgery is effective for most types of skin cancer, but is most commonly used to treat basal and squamous cell carcinomas. Mohs surgery is the treatment of choice when the cancer is large, the edges of the cancer cannot be clearly defined, the cancer is in an area of the body where it is important to preserve healthy tissue for the maximum functional and cosmetic result (eyelids, nose, ears and lips), likely to recur if treated by common methods or prior treatment has failed.
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