Skin cancer comes in many forms, but it’s always serious. Mohs Micrographic Surgery (often shortened to Mohs Surgery) is a highly efficient surgery that removes cancerous cells while sparing healthy skin.
There are many types of skin cancer, but one thing they all have in common is their ability to cause us harm. Like other forms of cancer, skin cancer occurs when the body begins producing abnormal cells at a harmful, unnatural rate. On the skin, cancer forms in the epidermis, the body’s outermost layer of skin. Abnormal cells can grow to the point of forming a tumor, a large collection of cancer cells that, if left untreated, can spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and Merkel cell carcinoma are the most well-known forms of skin cancer. While they all appear differently and spread at different rates, they all pose a threat to your health. Most forms of skin cancer have visible symptoms, and performing self-checks and being aware of your skin’s health are incredibly important.
Mohs Micrographic Surgery is a surgical procedure to remove skin cancer. Mohs was developed on a fairly straightforward concept: our skin is visible and thin, so removing as little as possible is important.
Mohs surgery has been in practice since the 1930s, and it has an incredibly high cure rate. When Mohs surgery is performed, a doctor will remove the top layer of a tumor or cancerous lesion. The entire layer is examined for signs of cancer, and the process is repeated until no cancerous cells are detected.
The layers removed are small, and that’s owed to the simple precision of Mohs surgery. As a result, very little visible skin needs to be removed—meaning stitches are not always necessary for Mohs surgery wounds.
Mohs surgery is very effective when certain types of skin cancer are detected early. The reason you need to consider Mohs, or why your dermatologist will recommend it, is that Mohs offers a very high cure rate and can be conducted quickly once cancer is identified.
Mohs surgery works best for basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma because the process is as aggressive as the condition. If your dermatologist notes that your cancerous lesion is large and spreading quickly, Mohs is the best option.
Additionally, Mohs is often used when cancer is recurring or on sensitive areas where there isn’t a lot of skin. Areas of skin that may require Mohs include: the scalp, eyelids, nose, hands, feet, genitals, and ears. Since Mohs takes so little skin, it’s the best way to prevent scarring and tissue damage.
Mohs has also been performed on melanoma, with slight modifications to the procedure needed. When Mohs is used on melanoma, it’s often called ‘Slow Mohs’ because it takes longer for a dermatologist to examine the removed skin or mole for cancer. With melanoma, more skin and surrounding tissue is removed during Mohs. It’s then intensively examined, and you’ll find out (usually the following day) whether the cancer was fully removed or if further tissue removal is necessary.
Ultimately, Mohs Micrographic Surgery is necessary for a lot of reasons, but it isn’t for all types of cancer and all areas of skin. A New England dermatologist such as Northeast Dermatology Associates can help determine the best course of action when handling skin cancer. It’s very possible Mohs will be their first choice.