Mohs Micrographic Surgery for Skin Cancer

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Mohs Micrographic Surgery for Skin CancerMohs Micrographic Surgery is a less invasive treatment option for skin care. Getting a diagnosis of skin cancer from your dermatologist is more than a little frightening.

Your first inclination is you want to get it off your skin, right now, as soon as you’ve received the news.

I know this because I’ve had it and my diagnosis was for the worst kind, malignant melanoma.

At the time, I couldn’t focus on anything other than dealing with the fact that I had cancer.

Now, some 6 years later a comment my dermatologist made still resonates with me. He said as soon as people get a diagnosis of cancer they want it gone immediately if not sooner.

He said people don’t realize that it takes years for the skin cancer to develop and waiting the days or weeks it may take to schedule removal and consider treatment options makes no difference in terms of severity.

His statement was intended to calm my panic so I could better focus on the treatment options available. When I had my cancer surgery 6 years ago, I had it done by excision and the Mohs Micrographic Surgery procedure wasn’t that well known. As a result, I have a 2-inch scar on my neck for a mole that was smaller than the size of a pencil eraser.

Excision versus a Mohs Micrographic Surgery Procedure

Mohs Micrographic Surgery Margin

Excision Surgery Margin Left, Mohs Right

Mohs micrographic surgery is becoming better known as an increasingly popular and preferred form of skin cancer surgery. Although the theory of Mohs was actually developed more than 50 years ago, there were relatively few dermatologists who were trained in its use.

This technique, in the US, has only become more widely available in the last few years and is less invasive. The very precise methodology of Mohs micrographic surgery is now universally recognized for treating skin cancers.

Cancers of the face and other cosmetically sensitive areas gain the most benefit, because it can eliminate most if not all the cancer cells with minimal damage to the surrounding tissue of normal skin.

Some people are plagued by recurrent skin cancers and the Mohs micrographic surgery procedure becomes the preferred method for these as well.

Microscopic Cancer Cells Below the Surface

Skin cancers are easily visible to those people who understand what to look for, but there are also individual cancer cells that are microscopic. If any of these cells are left behind, they can cause the tumor to reappear.

If the tumor spreads beyond external margins you can see, there may be clusters of cells growing in unpredictable areas. With the Mohs Micrographic Surgery procedure, all tumor clusters can be identified and removed with a very high degree of accuracy. This increases your cure rate up to 95% for recurrent skin cancers.

Your dermatologist is best suited to determine if this technique is right for your type of cancer over other effective procedures.

What is Mohs Micrographic Surgery for Skin Cancer?

Mohs micrographic surgery is named for Dr. Frederic Mohs who developed the basic technique. It’s also referred to as Mohs surgery, chemosurgery, microscopically controlled surgery or histographic surgery.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery MicroscopeIn the years since Dr. Mohs developed the procedure, many technical improvements and refinements have made micrographic surgery a safe and highly effective means of treating skin cancer malignancies.

The primary difference between micrographic surgery and other types of skin lesion removal is its microscopic control. In the Mohs procedure, multiple thin, horizontal layers of the cancer are removed. Each layer is then carefully identified and mapped by the dermatologist or surgeon so that its exact location can be pinpointed on the wound.

All removed tissue layers are inspected under a microscope for evidence of cancer cells. If you have cancer cells that are seen anywhere within the specimen, the dermatologist continues to remove and examine tissue layers until none are left.

The reason that each layer is examined microscopically is to tell dermatologists, with absolute certainty that all the cancer has been removed with no cancer cell clusters left behind. This “micro method” ensures you retain as much normal, undamaged skin as possible.

Your Expectations Before and After the Mohs Procedure

Most often, the Mohs micrographic surgery procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and with a local anesthetic so you have no down time. Surgery is generally scheduled to start early in the morning and is done the same day unless your tumor is extensive.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery Skin Cancer ExaminationWhen you have a layer-by-layer removal, it demands laboratory preparation, examination under the microscope not to mention great precision. This can be time consuming.

If you need more than one session to remove all the signs of your tumor, a bandage is applied over the area. As soon as the area is declared cancer-free, your dermatologist or surgeon will talk to you about after procedure care or reconstructive surgery if it’s determined that you should consider it.

Once you have had skin cancer, it is critically important to visit your dermatologist at least once year to check for any new cancer. Because I had Stage 2 malignant melanoma, and after it was removed, I’ve visited my dermatologist every six months for 5 years .

The video I have included below provides detailed, easy-to-watch, step-by-step information on what you can expect with Mohs Micrographic Surgery as a skin cancer treatment option. The video is about 9 minutes in length but well worth viewing for anyone dealing with skin cancer on your face, neck or other highly visible areas.

Why consider Mohs Micrographic Surgery?

Your cure rates for skin cancer with Mohs micrographic surgery can be as high as 95 percent. The procedure will produce the smallest possible evidence in removal of your cancer cells. The smaller the area of removal, the better the cosmetic result you’ll have after your surgery heals.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery - Health Insurance CoverageThis procedure is covered by most health insurances and is highly cost-effective as it eliminates most if not all cancer cells (depending on the severity of your skin cancer) in your first visit. This type of surgery is more expensive than a standard excision procedure because your cancer is addressed one layer at a time. The value you place on your overall appearance and perceived risk for re-occurrence is your own very personal decision.

To see if there are Mohs trained dermatologists or surgeons in your area, please click this link for more information.

Skin Cancer is Life Changing

Statistics show that 1 in 5 skin cancer patients will develop another cancer within 5 years. Getting skin cancer is life changing so education on the warning signs, knowing your treatment options and how to take care of a post-cancer you are the best way to be healthy and stay alive.