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These days, everyone is talking about SPF. It’s becoming widely known that protecting the skin from the sun is one of the best ways to prevent skin cancer, the most common of all cancers. While skin cancer affects more people, it can be incredibly dangerous. When abnormal cells are identified, it’s important to have them removed before they grow or spread. Dr. Justin Woodhouse, a skin cancer surgeon at Allied Dermatology and Skin Surgery, removes many cancerous lesions with Mohs Surgery.
Skin cancer treatment
Standard skin cancer surgery involves removing the visible cancer and a margin of healthy skin to ensure that all the cancerous cells are removed. After the tissue is removed and the incision is sutured, the cells are sent to a laboratory to determine if cancer exists inside the margin and how close it is to the edge of the tissue. If the cancer has spread further than the surgeon expected, the patient will have to return to have more tissue removed.
About Mohs Surgery
Mohs Surgery is an advanced surgical procedure that progressively removes thin layers of skin until all the cancerous cells have been removed. Each layer is examined before additional layers are removed. This allows the physician to protect as much of the healthy skin as possible and ensure that all cancer cells have been removed during a single treatment.
Mohs Surgery is used to treat basal cell and squamous cell cancer. It can also be used for some melanoma cancers as well. It is particularly effective for skin cancers that:
- Have recurred after previous treatment or have an elevated risk of recurrence
- Are in delicate areas where it’s important to save as much healthy tissue as possible, including the face, feet, and hands
- Have ragged borders
- Are aggressive and moving quickly
Preparing for surgery
Mohs surgery is an outpatient procedure that is traditionally done in the doctor’s office or clinic with a laboratory where the cells can be examined. To get ready for the procedure, patients should:
- Talk to their surgeon about any current medications. Some medications can increase bleeding or slow healing after the procedure and your physician may advise you to stop taking them or decrease the dosage.
- Clear your schedule for the day. While the procedure is typically complete in a few hours, it could take longer. Furthermore, when the surgery is over, most patients want to rest at home instead of returning to work or normal daily activities.
- Wear comfortable clothes. Depending on where the cancer is located you may need to undress to provide access to the area. You’ll want to wear clothes that are comfortable and loose fitting so that they don’t irritate the surgical area.
- Bring a book or electronic device. This surgical procedure involves some waiting while the cells are being examined. Light reading, music, or a video can help pass the time while you wait.
During the surgery
At the beginning of the procedure, the surgical area will be cleansed, a local anesthetic will be administered, and the cancerous area will be marked. Once the area is properly numbed, the surgeon will use a scalpel to remove the visible lesion and a thin layer of tissue underneath. The tissue is then taken into the lab where it is examined using a powerful microscope. If no cancer is found on the underlying tissue, the wound will be repaired, and the procedure is complete. If cancer is found on the tissue, the surgeon will be able to map it exactly and know where to continue the procedure. This process of removing a small amount of tissue and examining it under the microscope continues until the tissue is free of cancer cells.
An advantage of this surgery is that patients will know their results immediately and won’t have to wait for a phone call or return to the office to have more skin removed. Surgeons may ask their patients to return to check the wound and ensure proper healing. Individuals who have had skin cancer should remain diligent about follow up appointments and skin checks to ensure that the cancer doesn’t return in the same or another area.
For more information about Mohs Surgery or other skin cancer treatments, call 1-866-337-6631.