With more than a million cases each year, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States – affecting more people than breast, lung, colon and prostate cancers combined. Because one in five Americans will be diagnosed with a skin cancer in their lifetime, it is critical to take measures to protect yourself from the disease. But for those diagnosed with skin cancer, there are options for treatment.
Mohs surgery is an outpatient procedure that progressively removes layers of cancerous skin and reduces the chances of scarring. It is considered the gold standard treatment for skin cancers of the head and neck.
Fredric Mohs developed the procedure in the 1930s, and it was refined in the 1970s and ‘80s. While previous surgical options removed a large area of skin and tissue around the cancer, Mohs allows the dermatologist to remove cancerous cells while leaving as much healthy skin and tissue as possible.
In Mohs surgery, the minimal amount of skin and tissue is removed and analyzed to create a 360-degree map of the cancer. In this “one-stop-shop” procedure, patients receive analysis while they wait – better ensuring that all cancerous cells have been removed. In some cases, this process requires multiple rounds, but it is still performed in just one visit. Because it is so precise, the cure rate for Mohs is 99%.
After the doctor has confirmed the removal of all cancerous cells, the area is reconstructed through stitching or, in some cases, skin flaps or grafts are needed. Some areas may even heal naturally. Reconstruction is done at the same time as the surgery itself with input from the patients.
While the surgery and reconstruction may sound invasive, most patients are actually able to drive themselves home afterwards — something that is not the case with more painful and aggressive procedures.
Typically Mohs is recommended for skin cancers on the head and neck area, and sometimes large tumors on the body. Every patient is different and you should always discuss all treatment options with your doctor.