10 May Minimize Your Biopsy Scar with Mohs Surgery
About 20 percent of people will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. Skin cancer is 100 percent preventable and very easy to treat when caught early. Wearing sunscreen correctly and seeing your dermatologist every year for a mole check are the two best ways to prevent and catch skin cancer early. When skin cancer is caught early, the only treatment required is the removal of the affected area. However, in years past, this could sometimes mean a relatively large excision and resulting scar. Mohs surgery has changed everything, but most dermatology offices do not offer Mohs because of the cost and overhead—but Spectrum Dermatology does.
Prior to Mohs, a biopsy was required to diagnose skin cancer followed by a large excision. This excision was large (sometimes about one square inch) because the doctor wanted to ensure that all cancerous cells were removed. This also meant that much of the time, more skin was excised than necessary. This approach is pretty effective, but it overcorrects. Mohs surgery does not remove any more skin than is necessary and you will leave your appointment knowing that all borders of the excision are clear.
How Mohs Works
Once a biopsy is reported as having cancerous or pre-cancerous cells, an excision is the recommended treatment plan. This is the only way to treat skin cancer and ensure it doesn’t spread beyond the skin (once this happens, it becomes much more complicated to treat). Mohs surgery requires a dermatologist to have an in-house pathology lab. Your dermatologist will remove a much smaller section of the affected skin, and the sample is immediately brought to the lab while you wait. The lab technician checks to see if the “borders” of the excision are clear of cancerous cells or not. If it is clear, you are free to go home knowing that area of skin is cancer-free. If it is not, a slightly larger excision is taken and the borders are checked again. This continues until all borders are clear.
Many people prefer Mohs surgery because it means a smaller scar and a single appointment. If you are scheduled for Mohs surgery, it is a good idea to bring a computer or other form of entertainment to your appointment. It is fairly quick for an on-site lab to check samples, but most patients do want to work or otherwise keep busy while they wait.
In addition to a much smaller scar, patients like Mohs surgery because it’s just one appointment. You do not need to keep coming back for follow-up appointments after each excision. Once a Mohs surgery shows an “all clear” border, then that particular spot is cancer-free—at least for the moment. Bear in mind that when a person is diagnosed with skin cancer, they are more likely to be diagnosed again in the future. Keeping up with your annual mole checks becomes especially important, but the good news is that Mohs surgery makes skin cancer even easier to treat.
Why It’s Tough to Find Mohs Surgeons
Not every dermatologist is trained and qualified to offer Mohs surgery. It is easier and more cost effective (for the dermatologist) to simply use the older method of excising a larger sample. However, a reputable dermatologist puts the patient’s needs and desires first, and many times this entails offering Mohs surgery. It is also complicated to have an on-site lab rather than send samples and biopsies to outside labs.
As you can imagine, offering Mohs surgery simply isn’t feasible for every clinic. The benefits of Mohs surgery are very important to the patient, and include a better scar and a single appointment. However, these benefits ultimately do little to make the outcome of treating skin cancer “better.” After all, treating skin cancer, whether through the traditional large excision or Mohs surgery, is highly effective either way. Ultimately, if you have skin cancer, you have a choice: find a dermatologist that offers Mohs surgery to save time and improve the aesthetic outcome, or not.
If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, have a history of skin cancer, want to schedule your mole check, or simply want to make sure your dermatologist offers Mohs surgery, schedule an appointment today. Contact Spectrum Dermatology by completing the online form or call the office at 480-948-8400.