Skin cancer affects about 3.3 million Americans a year. While cancer is a frightening and uncertain diagnosis, skin cancer is treatable in its early stages. Mohs surgery is a treatment for skin cancer which involves removing cancerous skin cells while leaving the surrounding skin as intact as possible.
How does Mohs surgery work?
Mohs surgery removes thin layers of the skin containing cancerous cells. One by one, your doctor removes the layers then examines them for cancerous cells. When there are no longer cancerous cells in the layers, the surgery is complete. Surgery requires only local anesthetic to numb the area in question and patients may go home afterward without staying in the hospital. Mohs surgery treats some forms of melanoma but focuses mainly on removing squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma.
How is Mohs surgery different than conventional skin cancer removal surgery?
Conventional excision surgery has a reoccurrence rate of about 10%-20% over a five-year period, depending on the location of the cancer. Mohs, however, has only a 1%-5% reoccurrence rate over five years. Additionally, Mohs leaves a significantly larger amount of healthy skin intact around the surgery site than traditional excision surgery. This leaves scarring at a minimum and makes the once-cancerous area less noticeable than conventional surgery.
Mohs Surgery in Santa Barbara, CA
Mohs surgery is usually an outpatient procedure which takes various amounts of time depending on the patient and the size and complexity of their cancer. The procedure begins with local anesthesia. With the area in question numbed, your doctor removes the visible part of the tumor. Then, your doctor removes very thin layers of skin to examine under the microscope.
Each layer of tissue is meticulously organized to ensure your doctor and the laboratory technicians know exactly from where and which depth the tissue was taken. This allows your doctor to remove the minimal amount of tissue necessary to remove the cancerous cells, leaving the healthy tissue behind. This process focuses on eliminating all of the cancerous cells while leaving behind the smallest and least noticeable scar possible.
Recovery from Mohs surgery is normally minimal thanks to its careful and precise procedure. If necessary, stitches close the wound. A skin flap or skin graft can also close the wound in larger surgical sites. Your doctor can help you determine which wound closure is best for you and your condition.