Texans are blessed with many opportunities for outdoor fun. Unfortunately, this means more exposure to the damaging rays of the sun. And that can lead to skin cancer – the most common type of cancer in the world. In fact, about 5.4 million squamous and basal cell cancers in about 3.3 million Americans are diagnosed each year. While alarming, there is some good news. As the rate of different types of cancers increases, our technology and science rises to meet the demand for treatment. Mohs surgery is an example of technology and science rising to meet the need for skin cancer treatment.
Mohs surgery is a technique where thin layers of cancer-containing skin are removed, one at a time. The surgeon performing the procedure microscopically examines each layer as it’s removed and stops when only healthy tissue remains.
Criteria for this Type of Surgery
Mohs surgery is a good option for many patients who have been diagnosed with skin cancer. Here are some examples of people who are good candidates for Mohs surgery:
- Patients who have complex squamous or basal cell carcinomas
- Patients who have cancer in an area where preservation of healthy tissue is critical to maximize function and cosmetic result (face, scalp, eyelids, nose, ears, lips, hands)
- Patients who have skin cancer cells that are large or have indistinct borders
- Patients whose cancer has a high risk of returning, either due to an aggressive growth pattern of cancer or an area of body prone to recurrence
- Patients whose skin cancer has returned after previous treatment
Unlike other surgical techniques, Mohs surgery is an outpatient procedure, done under local anesthesia. Cutting away cancerous tissue layer by layer means your surgeon will be able to preserve more of the healthy tissue that surrounds the cancerous area. Because your surgeon is removing less tissue with this procedure, the healing time is typically faster than with other types of surgery. In addition to preserving healthy, unaffected skin, this surgical technique also provides very high cure rates and minimizes the risk of cancer recurrence. This reduces the possibility that you’ll need further treatments or surgery in the future.
Mohs surgeons are dermatologists with additional fellowship training who are highly skilled in all aspects of Mohs surgery, from surgically removing the tumor to examination of the tissue to advanced reconstruction techniques of the skin. If you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer and are curious about Mohs surgery, talk with your doctor to discuss your options.
Dr. Mohsin Mir is a board-certified dermatologist with advanced training in Mohs surgery who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Tanglewood Clinic. His clinical interests include skin cancer, Mohs surgery and cosmetic skin procedures such as Fraxel laser resurfacing and cosmetic injectables (Botox and fillers).