Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. About 20 percent of the population will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in their lives and about 2 million people are diagnosed with the cancer each year. Although skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body, even in areas that don’t see much sunlight, a great majority of the cancers occur on the face.
That can be devastating news, as the removal of the cancer can alter considerably a person’s looks. One type of surgery, created by Dr. Frederic Mohs in the 1930s, is designed to remove the cancer while leaving as much healthy skin untouched as possible. Mohs surgery is often done to remove skin cancer on the face, since it leaves a smaller scar than other options.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with skin cancer, your surgeon will discuss the various options for treatment with you, based on the type of cancer you have, it’s location and your overall health.
Compared to other cancer removal treatments, Mohs surgery has a very high cure rate — up to 98 percent. The surgery involves removing the visible cancer, as well as an area of seemingly healthy skin. The excised skin is examined under a microscope or in a lab. If the healthy looking skin is cancer-free, the surgery is over. If it is not, the doctor will remove another layer of skin and examine it closely.
The process typically continues until the surgeon reaches a layer of skin that is cancer-free. When performing Mohs surgery, the doctor doesn’t have to guess at how much to remove. The procedure is more precise than other surgeries and allows the doctor to preserve as much healthy tissue as possible.
A major benefit of the Mohs procedure is that it usually allows a surgeon to completely remove the cancer while leaving a small wound. While the surgery itself can take longer than other procedures, typically only a single procedure is needed, which can save the patient time and money.
Other Types of Surgery
While Mohs surgery offers a high cure rate with the smallest scar, it’s not ideal for all types of cancers, nor is it always necessary. For example, if a patient has melanoma on a less visible area of the body, such as the back of the leg, excisional surgery, which removes the visible tumor as well as a wide margin of seemingly-healthy skin, might be suitable. Basic excisional surgery doesn’t involve examining the cells under a microscope, meaning it takes less time. It doesn’t have the accuracy of Mohs and it leaves a larger scar.
Surgery isn’t appropriate for patients with skin cancer. Depending on your overall health, another form of treatment might be safer. In other cases, the skin cancer might be detected early enough that it can be removed without the use of surgery.
One common non-surgical option for cancer removal is cryotherapy, or freezing the cancer using liquid nitrogen. Cryotherapy is best for early-stage cancers or for precancerous lesions, known as actinic keratoses. The freezing temperature destroys the cells, causing the body to shed them. While the treatment does sting, it usually leaves no scarring or other mark behind.
Chemical treatments can also be used on skin cancer. One type of chemotherapy is applied topically, on top of the cancerous area. The medicine, 5-fluorouracil, destroys the cancer cells, so that they fall off. If the treatment works, new, healthy skin grows in the place of cancer.
Another chemical treatment is photodynamic therapy. The first part of photodynamic therapy involves applying a chemical to the cancer. After several hours, the treated area is exposed to light, which activates the chemical, destroying the cancerous cells.
No matter what treatment a patient decides on, in the majority of cases, skin cancer is treatable. What matters most is detecting the cancer early, before it has a chance to spread to other areas of the body. Nationally recognized and Ivy League-educated, Dr. Ross Clevens, a board-certified facial plastic surgeon, is able to evaluate your skin cancer and make treatment recommendations that are appropriate for your case. Often, dermatologists throughout the Brevard County area refer patients to Dr. Clevens if more critical issues that may require plastic surgery need to be addressed.
To schedule an appointment at Clevens Face and Body Specialists, in Melbourne, FL, call (321) 727-3223 today.