There are several types of skin cancers. While melanoma is the best known, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinomas are more common. As skin cancer grows, it has potential to spread wider and deeper into the skin and to other parts of the body. A range of treatments is available to treat the various forms of skin cancer. One of the most successful therapies—from both a curing and skin-preserving perspective—is Mohs surgery. The Long Beach area's Patient Preferred Dermatology doctors are trained in this precision technique. Any patient who has a confirmed skin cancer should discuss available therapy options, including Mohs surgery, at a consultation with a doctor.
Mohs surgery is particularly suited for treating localized cancers that develop in sensitive areas, such as the face. Since it leaves a maximum amount of healthy tissue, it can preserve the critical function, nerves, and arteries in the eyelids, lips, noses, and ears. The cosmetic impact of the surgery is also minimized. Patients find that they can preserve their health without significantly compromising their appearance.
Developed in the 1930s, Mohs surgery is a skin cancer removal method that focuses on the borders where cancer ends and healthy skin begins. Surgery can be effective, but in some cases, individual cancer cells may remain even after the visible tumor mass has been removed by standard surgical excision. By going a step beyond traditional surgical techniques, Mohs surgery can achieve very high cure rates.
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The basic principle of Mohs surgery is intense scrutinizing of carefully prepared slides, each made from a layer of tissue taken from the margins of the tumor-impacted area. The doctor will continue to remove, prepare, and examine thin layers of tissue until no cancer cells are visible. Whether the cancer extends downward into the skin, to the sides of the original tumor site, or both, Mohs allows for complete discovery and removal. While it can be applied virtually anywhere on the body, Mohs surgery is most commonly used to treat skin cancer on the head and face.
Since this technique focuses on removing a contained cluster of cancer cells localized to one area, it is ideal for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, both of which are known for generally staying in one area. Spreading of aggressive squamous cell carcinomas is possible, but not common, especially if these cancers are discovered and treated early. The more aggressive melanoma frequently requires a different approach, but Mohs surgery may be able to address it in an early stage.
Remember: Prevention is still the best tactic for avoiding the negative effects of skin cancer. Applying regular sun protection, avoiding tanning beds, and maintaining good health are all helpful. Cancer risk can't be eliminated, but it can be reduced. For cases when skin cancer does develop, however, Mohs surgery is a potentially life-saving option.
American Society for Mohs Surgery Education Video
* individual results may vary