Skin cancer can affect a wide range of people. With more than one million skin cancers diagnosed each year, it is the most common form of cancer in the United States. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lifetime and more than 20 Americans die each day from skin cancer, predominantly from melanoma. Patients whose cancer is detected early or before the tumor has penetrated the outermost layer of the skin often have a high survival rate.
Should you develop skin cancer, there are options for treatment. The physicians at Columbia Skin Clinic treat patients with skin cancer by performing Mohs surgery, which has the highest cure rate of all removal methods.
What is Mohs Surgery?
Mohs Micrographic Surgery was developed in the 1930s by Dr. Frederic Mohs and is considered the most effective technique for treating many squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas, the two most common types of skin cancer.
The procedure is completed in stages, all in one office visit, while the patient waits. Our surgeon will start by removing a layer of tissue, then examining it under a microscope in an in-house lab. If he detects any cancer cells on the margins of the tissue, the surgeon will know exactly where the cells are located and can remove another layer of tissue from that precise location. The doctor then repeats the process until no cancer cells are detected.
Mohs surgery is the only type of treatment in which the doctor can see exactly where the cancer stops, sparing as much healthy tissue as possible. Saving healthy tissue is especially important when cancer develops in areas with a small amount of tissue beneath the skin, such as the eyelid, ear or hand.
What is it like to have Mohs Surgery?
Columbia Skin Clinic is able to perform most Mohs procedures right in our medical office. Only if extensive surgery is needed will the patient be admitted to the hospital. Patients are given a local anesthesia to numb the affected area of the skin, allowing them to stay awake and alert during Mohs surgery. While the anesthetic is taking effect, the surgeon will examine the area to be treated.
The surgeon will start surgery by cutting out the visible skin cancer. Next, the surgeon will remove a thin layer of the surrounding skin. The patient is bandaged while the surgeon examines the removed skin under a microscope, looking for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, the surgeon will remove another layer of skin. The entire process can take several hours, depending on the severity of the cancer.
Once our Mohs surgeon no longer detects cancer cells, he will determine how to treat your wound. Some wounds heal without stitches, while others require stitches. Some patients may require a skin graft or other type of surgery to minimize scarring and help the area heal.
What are the results?
A dermatological surgeon is concerned with not only removing the cancer but also minimizing scarring. Mohs offers the best cosmetic results of any skin cancer treatment because the least amount of skin is removed to treat the cancer. Preserving healthy tissues also leads to faster recovery times. Although Mohs is not appropriate for treating all skin cancers, it is the most effective for recurring skin cancers or cancers that have a high risk of recurring.
Where can I have Mohs Surgery?
At Columbia Skin Clinic, our board-certified, fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon serves as both the pathologist and reconstructive surgeon. We understand that skin cancer can be a scary diagnosis. Our physicians and staff are here to walk you through the treatment process and treat your specific case.
For more information about Mohs surgery at Columbia Skin Clinic or to schedule a skin cancer screening, please contact one of our three Midlands locations.