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5 Facts You Need To Know About Mohs Surgery

Mohs micrographic surgery is a precise procedure to remove skin cancer that was developed by Frederic Mohs. Your dermatologist is the best person to help you decide if Mohs surgery is right for you, but if you think it's a possibility, you must check out these five facts, so you know what to expect.

It's Mostly Used to Treat Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Mohs surgery is extremely effective at treating basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). BCCs occur in cells in the epidermis, and they look like open sores or scars. They are caused by sun exposure, and usually don't metastasize. SCCs also occur in the epidermis, and they can also look like open sores. They are caused by UV exposure, and SCCs can be deadly if not treated. Your dermatologist may also suggest Mohs surgery if you have previously had cancer and it has returned, if the cancer has undefined boarders and is aggressive, or if you have melanoma in the outer layers of the skin.

The Process Saves Healthy Tissue

Mohs surgery is commonly done on areas around the face, hands and feet because it saves as much healthy tissue as possible, which preserves functionality (in hands, feet, etc.) and appearance (especially in the face). The process saves healthy tissue because the doctor works the area layer by layer.  After each layer, the doctor stops and has the layer examined in the lab to look for cancerous cells. If cancerous cells are detected, the next layer is removed. This process continues until absolutely no cancerous cells are noted. In other surgeries, the doctor guesses how much skin to remove, which usually means removing more tissue than needed.

The Process Is Long

Because the doctor removes the cancer layer by layer, the process is longer than with other skin cancer surgeries. The exact length of time varies and depends on how deep the cancer has penetrated. After each layer is removed, you must wait in a room while the surgeon cuts and examines the area with a microscope. The more layers that must be inspected, the longer you have to wait. On the bright side, however, because you can't leave until the process is done, you'll know your results as soon as the procedure is over, and you don't usually leave until the cancer is gone.  

There Are Different Methods for Closing the Incision

There are different methods for closing the wound, and you and your doctor will discuss which is best. One method for smaller incisions is to just let the wound heal on its own without stitches. For other small wounds, the doctor may recommend making a few stitches. For larger wounds, you may need a skin flap from a nearby area or a skin graft from another part of the body. Unfortunately, you will probably have a scar, but your doctor will try to work with you on making it as small as possible.

Your Skin Cancer May Still Return

Mohs micrographic surgery has a high success rate. The five-year cure rate is about 99 percent for new cancers and 95 percent for reoccurring cancers. However, there is no 100 percent perfect cure for cancer, and your skin cancer may still return. Your best chances of reducing your risk is to avoid the sun and tanning beds, protect your skin with hats, wear sunscreen whenever you go outside (even on cloudy days) and have routine visits with your dermatologist.

Skin cancer is a serious matter, and if your dermatologist, someone like those at the Dermatology Surgery Center, believes you have developed cancer, you need to seek treatment immediately. Mohs micrographic surgery is an effective way for treating many forms of cancer, and your doctor can help you determine if it is right for you. For more information or to talk about skin cancer treatment, contact a dermatologist in your area today.