Skin cancer is an increasingly common diagnosis, but luckily there are effective treatments available. Mohs surgery is often a preferred treatment for skin cancer due to its high success rate and minimal impact on healthy tissue. This specialized procedure has been used for over 75 years and is a safe and reliable way to remove cancerous tissue without causing too much damage to the surrounding area. It’s especially beneficial for areas of the skin that are delicate or difficult to treat, such as the face and hands. Let’s review why this technique is the preferred skin cancer treatment.
What Is Mohs Surgery?
Mohs surgery is a highly specialized treatment that removes skin cancer in stages. The surgeon will remove a small (1-3mm) sample of your skin and send it to the pathologist for analysis. They’ll determine the depth of the skin cancer, and the surgeon will remove the rest of the sample and any surrounding tissue that may have been impacted. The sample then goes back to the pathologist to ensure all cancerous cells are gone. Once again, the surgeon will remove a small sample of healthy tissue surrounding the area of cancer, so they can ensure that all cancer cells have been removed. This pattern continues until the pathologist determines that there’s no more active cancer. This surgery is best for cancers close to the surface and without a clearly defined edge (like basal cell carcinoma).
Is It Safe?
The surgery is a safe and effective way to treat skin cancer. A pathologist monitors the entire procedure and ensures that the surgeon removes all cancerous cells without impacting the surrounding tissue. The pathologist will also remove a small amount of surrounding tissue to be sent to a pathology lab for analysis. This helps ensure that the surgeon only removes skin cancer cells and nothing else.
How Much Does Mohs Surgery Cost?
The cost of Mohs surgery will vary depending on the type of insurance you have and the surgeon you choose. Many dermatologists and surgeons offer a free consultation, which allows you to ask questions and get a better idea of the costs associated with it. Generally speaking, Mohs surgery is a costly procedure, but not in comparison to other treatments like radiation.
What Are the Side Effects of Mohs Surgery?
Most patients don’t experience any side effects from Mohs surgery. However, you may experience minor pain and discomfort, especially when treating a large area. You may experience some swelling, redness, and irritation in the area treated. However, this should go away within a few days. If your skin is sensitive, you may experience itching and irritation after the surgery. You may feel pain and discomfort when the surgeon applies pressure to the area. This discomfort can be managed with pain medication.
What Are the Challenges Associated With Mohs Surgery?
This surgery requires a pathologist to be present for the procedure. This means the surgery must be performed in a pathology lab with all the proper equipment. Not all hospitals or clinics have this capability so it’s important to ask about their facilities at the time of your appointment. The patient must remain still during the procedure. It can be challenging if the patient receives treatment on an area of the body used frequently, such as an ear or hand.
Are There Any Alternatives to Mohs Surgery?
Surgery is often a preferred treatment over other options when treating skin cancer. Depending on the type and depth of the skin cancer, your surgeon may recommend a different treatment. If the skin cancer is in an area of the body that can be treated with cryotherapy, your surgeon may recommend this over surgery. Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy skin cancer cells, so it doesn’t require a large incision. If the skin cancer is on the palm of your hand or the sole of your foot, your surgeon may recommend photodynamic therapy. It’s a non-invasive treatment that uses light and a chemical to kill skin cancer cells.
How Do I Find a Mohs Surgeon?
Your dermatologist will likely recommend a Mohs surgeon for your specific case. However, you may have a few options to choose from. The best way to find a Mohs surgeon is to ask your dermatologist for recommendations since they’re likely to be familiar with the surgeons in your area and can recommend someone who’s experienced and skilled. You can also do an online search to find surgeons in your area. Check to see their credentials and reviews from previous patients. There is also a Mohs Society directory online to help people find a Mohs surgeon in their area. This directory is maintained by Mohs surgeons and pathologists across the country, so you know the surgeons listed have been vetted and verified.
Treat Challenging Areas
Mohs surgery can treat challenging areas of the body, such as the face, hands, and ears. It’s also beneficial for areas of the body that are difficult to treat, such as scars, tattoos, or moles.
High Success Rate
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, Mohs surgery has a 99% cure rate for skin cancer that hasn’t been treated before. Almost 98% of patients don’t experience a recurrence after five years. This success is largely due to the precision and accuracy of the procedure, which enables surgeons to effectively remove all cancerous cells without damaging healthy tissue.
Mohs surgery is designed to preserve healthy tissue and minimize scarring. The surgeon will take extra care to ensure the edges of the removed tissue are smooth, which helps reduce the appearance of scars. Additionally, since the surgery goes in stages, only a small portion of tissue needs to be removed at a time. This helps reduce the size of any scarring.
Mohs surgery is an in-office procedure and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on the size of the area to be treated. It can be done under local or general anesthetic, depending on the specific case. The procedure is also relatively affordable compared to other treatments like radiation therapy.
Easy to Prepare For
Your surgeon will likely recommend you avoid smoking and drinking, especially if your skin cancer is linked to smoking. Failing to do so will increase your risk of infection and prolong your recovery time. Mohs surgery is an in-office procedure, but you’ll be able to go back to your normal routine as soon as the surgery is complete. Your surgeon may recommend resting for a few hours before you go home. You can eat and drink after Mohs surgery, but your doctor will ask you to refrain from eating and drinking for at least 6 hours before the procedure. Also, you should arrange for someone to drive you home from the surgery. Before the surgery, you should remove any makeup or jewelry in your area of the body to be treated.
Dealing with skin cancer can be difficult, but Mohs surgery is an effective way to remove it. It’s a minimally invasive procedure with a high success rate and minimal side effects. The cost of Mohs surgery may be high, but it’s worth the peace of mind that comes with having healthy skin. If you think Mohs surgery is the right option for you, contact our team for a consultation today.