Mohs surgery is often an effective method for treating certain forms of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, in particular, are known to respond well to this type of treatment with cure rates around 98 percent. This procedure is also effective in treating certain forms of melanoma and other rare skin cancers. Mohs surgery is especially beneficial when the carcinoma has grown on the face, as the technique implemented removes the skin delicately while preserving healthy tissue.
Also known as Mohs micrographic surgery, this skin cancer treatment involves removing any layers of skin that contains cancer cells. Local anesthesia is given to the patient before the surgeon removes a visible portion of cancer with a scalpel. This piece of tissue and a thin layer of skin that is slightly bigger than the tumor are taken to an on-site lab and analyzed immediately. This is sometimes enough to remove all of the cancer. However, if the doctor suspects that the cancer is not entirely removed, more layers of cancerous skin tissue are progressively taken and examined until the patient is only left with cancer-free skin. Doctors are able to determine whether or not all of the cancer was removed, which boosts the chances of curing the cancer without additional surgery or other types of treatment. The entire procedure can often be completed in less than four hours on an outpatient basis.
Ideal Candidates for Mohs Surgery
Anyone who has recurring cancer of the skin or is at a greater risk of having any recurrences is generally an ideal candidate for this procedure. This cancer treatment is also recommended for patients who want to preserve as much tissue as possible on areas of the body such as the hands, ears, nose and around the mouth. Doctors may further recommend Mohs surgery to treat cancers that are large or aggressive or have irregular borders.
What are the Advantages?
In addition to its high cure rate, this method of skin cancer removal offers a faster, more effective way to treat skin cancer. Unlike standard surgery that involves local incisions, this procedure usually requires less tissue to be removed, which can decrease scarring and other complications. The precise nature of the surgery also allows doctors to remove skin cancer with greater accuracy.
What are the Risks?
One of the main risks of this skin cancer treatment is that it can cause bleeding from the wound or into the wound where the surgery was performed. The surgical site may also become infected or experience pain or tenderness. There is also risk for nerve damage, which could result in chronic pain or numbness around the surgical site. Scarring as well as persistent itchiness and shooting pains are other possible complications.
Before the Surgery
A patient will be asked to take steps to prepare for the procedure. Certain medications, such as blood-thinning medicines and supplements that increase the risk of heavy bleeding, should not be taken just before the surgery. The patient will also likely be asked to clear his or her schedule for the day of the surgery, wear comfortable clothes and bring something to read while awaiting the results.
After the Surgery
The patient and surgeon can decide how to best treat the wound around the surgical site together. The wound may be able to heal on its own by second intention or require stiches or skin grafting. For extensive or complex surgeries, reconstructive surgery to repair the wound may be required.
Since there is a small chance that the cancer could return, regular follow-up care is recommended. The amount of follow-up care that is needed depends on the specific diagnosis, but patients are generally advised to return for skin exams at least 1-2 a year.