More than one million Americans are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer every year. However, when detected early, skin cancer has an extremely high cure rate. While any form of cancer gives cause for concern, modern surgical techniques are becoming better and better at successfully treating skin cancer.
Cell re-growth is the major problem with most types of skin cancer. Techniques such as scraping or cutting are designed to completely remove cancer cells, but if diseased cells remain in the skin, it's possible that they will begin to grow again.
Mohs surgery was designed to eliminate cell re-growth. This procedure entails using microscopes and a special mapping technique to determine the exact location of all cancerous cells in the skin. Doctors are then able to remove the cancer without fear of re-growth from remaining cells.
*The cost for Mohs surgery varies depending on the doctor, location, technique used and the difficulty of the specific case.
Mohs surgery has come to be accepted as the single most effective technique for removing Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (BCCs and SCCs).
*Mohs surgery has the highest success rate of all treatments for skin cancer - up to 99%.
- What are some of the most common benefits of this procedure?
- How is the procedure performed?
- How long do the treatments take?
- Where is the treatment performed?
- How much pain is there?
- What can I expect afterward?
- Ideal candidate:
- Other important information:
- Risks and limitations:
What are some of the most common benefits of mohs surgery?
The most obvious benefit of Mohs surgery is the elimination of cancerous growths from the patient's skin. Studies have shown that in individuals who have had at least one failed skin cancer treatment, Mohs surgery is 96 to 98 percent effective in giving a complete cure. In contrast, other forms of surgery offer only a 50 to 75 percent chance of eliminating cancers in which other treatments have failed.
In other forms of skin cancer treatment, cutting or scraping often removes healthy skin as well as cancerous cells. But, by identifying exactly which cells are cancerous, Mohs surgery saves as many healthy cells as possible while eliminating each and every cancer cell.
If you're considering Mohs surgery, the following information will provide you with a good introduction to the procedure. For more detailed information about how this procedure may help you, we recommend that you consult a dermatologist with experience in Mohs surgery.
How is the procedure performed?
During Mohs surgery, the doctor begins by removing the obvious and visible areas of growth on the skin by cutting or scraping. Next, an additional thin layer of skin is removed from the cancer site and injected with dye to help identify its original location on the patient's body. The removed layer is then carefully examined under a microscope in order to determine whether any cancer cells remain. If none are found, then the surgery is complete.
If your doctor does find cancerous cells in the removed layer, he/she will remove another small layer of skin from the area where the cancer remains. He/she will repeat this process until certain that all of the potentially harmful cells have been removed.
After surgery, the remaining wound is usually closed either by sutures, a skin graft or a skin flap. In some cases, the wound is left to heal on its own.
How long do the treatments take?
The removal of each layer of skin takes one to two hours. However, the entire procedure takes several hours. Time is allotted for preparation as well as for analysis of the tissue following the surgery.
Where is the treatment performed?
Mohs surgery can be performed in the doctor's office or in a surgical suite, depending on your preferences as well as your doctor's professional recommendation. The procedure is generally done on an outpatient basis using a local anesthetic. Sometimes a mild sedative is administered as well.
How much pain is there?
The amount of pain experienced varies from person to person, and depends on how much skin is actually removed. You should discuss your goals, budget, and pain tolerance with your doctor in order to help him/her determine the procedure, or combination of procedures, that will produce the best results for you.
After the procedure is performed, you should experience only minor discomfort. Your doctor may prescribe a mild pain medication to relieve these symptoms. You should avoid taking Ibuprofen and aspirin as they may increase bleeding.
What can I expect afterward?
Some patients experience mild bleeding following the procedure. Your doctor may use a gauze pad combined with constant pressure in order to minimize this bleeding. Swelling, bruising and scabbing are common following Mohs surgery, and small areas of redness may develop around the wound. Most of these problems should disappear within five to seven days.
In general, the best candidates for Mohs surgery are:
- Individuals with skin cancer around the nose, ears or eyes
- Individuals with cancer on the surface of the skin
- Mature enough to fully understand the procedure
- Knowledgeable about the procedure
- In good physical and psychological health
- Non-smokers or able to stop smoking during the healing process
- Realistic in their expectations
The above is only a partial list of the criteria that your doctor will consider in determining whether or not this procedure is appropriate for you. Be sure to ask your doctor if he/she considers you an ideal candidate.
Other important information:
There are a number of alternatives to Mohs surgery, including elliptical excision, freezing, and radiation. Each of these procedures offers a different way to eliminate skin cancer. Ask your doctor for help in determining which is best for you.
Risks and limitations:
Because this procedure involves cutting as little healthy tissue as possible, the area of excision is kept to a minimum. However, it is common for patients to form scars wherever tissue is removed. If scarring is a problem, a second, minor procedure can be performed about two months after the original Mohs surgery.
*Disclaimer: Costs source: According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), nationally in 2010. Most surgeons offer convenient payments plans for this procedure. Cost does not include anesthesia, operating room facility, hospital stay, and other related expenses. Costs may also vary depending on location.