Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and cumulative sun exposure is a major risk factor for its development. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Each year, 3.3 million Americans will be diagnosed with one of these types of cancer; that is approximately 9,500 people every day!
Fortunately, there are many available treatment options for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Mohs surgery, named after the inventor of the technique, Dr. Frederick Mohs, is the gold standard treatment for these skin cancers in cosmetically sensitive areas such as the head and neck. Mohs surgery is a specialized type of surgery in which the dermatologist acts as both the surgeon and the pathologist. Under local anesthesia, the skin cancer is surgically removed, processed in a lab onsite and placed onto slides, maintaining the precise orientation using a map. All edges of the skin are then checked under the microscope to ensure that the cancer has been completely removed. If there are any residual roots to the cancer seen under the microscope, more skin is removed in that area.
Mohs surgery offers a 99% cure rate. Furthermore, because all of the edges are checked under the microscope, it allows for the smallest amount of normal skin to be removed, sparing as much as possible. After the cancer removal, Mohs surgeons are well-trained to reconstruct the skin, providing excellent cosmetic and functional outcomes.
Even though Mohs surgery is a great option for treating skin cancer, the best way is to prevent it in the first place. We recommend wearing sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher, sun-protective clothing, and practicing sun avoidance. If you have any spots of concern that are bleeding, changing over time, or not healing, see your local dermatologist for further evaluation. Finally, regular skin checks for skin cancer screening with your dermatologist increase the likelihood of catching skin cancer early and treating it effectively.
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