If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with basal or squamous cell skin cancer, you may be advised to undergo surgery. One of the more popular types of surgery for skin cancer is known as Mohs surgery. If you are unfamiliar with the Mohs surgery technique and what it involves, you probably have questions you'd like answered. Speak with your physician or dermatologist, but in the meantime, here are answers to some frequently asked questions pertaining to Mohs:
1. Who Developed This Surgery?
During the 1930s, a Wisconsin professor and physician named Frederic E. Mohs came up with the concept and development of Mohs Micrographic Surgery (MMS). Dr. Mohs was a medical student of the University of Wisconsin at the time of his innovative discovery and development of this technique. During the initial phase of development, Dr. Mohs ran experiments on rats and other laboratory animals. It wasn't until 1936 that Dr. Mohs actually treated a human for the very first time.
2. How Is the Mohs Surgery Technique Implemented?
The concept behind the Mohs surgery technique is to remove as minimal amount of skin tissue as necessary. Unlike more invasive surgery techniques, Mohs only targets and removes the cancerous cells and immediate tissue surrounding them. This technique is accomplished with the use of a microscope that can identify the location of the cancer cells.
The patient will typically undergo Mohs surgery in the physician's or dermatologist's office, on an outpatient basis. He or she will not be required to go to sleep under general anesthesia. Instead, the area to be treated will be numbed by a local anesthetic. The cancer cells are removed with an implement (commonly by a scalpel). Thin layers of cancerous skin cells may need to be removed. These cells or tumor will need to be examined by a lab technician. It is said that Mohs surgery for skin cancer has a cure rate of 99 percent.
3. How Long Does the Procedure Generally Take?
Typically, patients undergoing Mohs surgery for treatment of their skin cancer will be in the doctor's office for a few hours. In some cases, such as the removal of only one layer of skin tissue, the procedure may take only 60 minutes or so. Some patients may require a few stitches to close the wound.
4. Who Are Ideal Candidates for Mohs Surgery?
If you have been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, you may be a good candidate for this technique. It is best for cancer surrounding the eyes, ears, mouth, feet, or hands. Also, if you have already received treatment for skin cancer and the cancer has returned, your physician may recommend Mohs as an option. You should note, however, that if you have a rarer form of skin cancer such as melanoma, Mohs surgery might not be the best option. Discuss your concerns with your doctor, as he or she can inform you if the Mohs technique is the best option for you.
5. What Else Is Important to Know About Mohs Surgery?
Some patients are concerned about feeling pain during the procedure. Generally speaking, most patients will experience some discomfort, although the pain will be minimal due to the local anesthesia that will be administered. If the patient is undergoing the Mohs surgery on the scalp, the discomfort may be slightly more pronounced. If the doctor deems it necessary, the patient may be given a prescription pain reliever, otherwise an over-the-counter medication analgesic should be adequate.
Another concern for many patients is the possibility of scarring. While it is common to develop a scar in the area of surgery, the scar should diminish significantly over a period of several months. To facilitate healing and reduce the risk of scarring, the patient must follow the post-operative instructions given to him or her by the surgeon.
If you have further questions or concerns, discuss them with your skin doctor or contact a medical center like Countryside Dermatology & Laser Center.