13 Jan Mohs Surgery for Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, both in the US and around the world, with 20 percent of Americans developing some type of skin cancer by the time they turn 70. Spectrum Dermatology is committed to preventing skin cancer and treating it quickly when it is diagnosed. Considering that more than two people die in the US every hour from skin cancer, something has to be done.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, but when it’s caught early there’s a 99 percent survival rate. Sun damage is the primary cause of all skin cancers, and if you’ve had more than five sunburns in your life then your risk for melanoma has doubled. Every day in the US, 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer, and there are many more who aren’t getting skin checks and going un-diagnosed.
Annual skin checks combined with monthly at-home skin checks are your best bet for catching skin cancer early. Pair these checks with best practices for sun damage prevention, and you can dramatically reduce your risk of late-stage skin cancer. There were over 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer in the US last year, and there are more people diagnosed with skin cancer in the US every year than all other cancers combined. Non-melanoma skin cancer diagnoses have increased 77 percent since 1994, and luckily our knowledge on what causes skin cancer and how to prevent it has also increased.
The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma with 4.3 million cases reported each year in the US. Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common with one million cases every year. About 15,000 die due to squamous cell carcinoma in the US every year, which is twice as many deaths compared to melanoma. Merkel cell carcinoma is by far the rarest and most aggressive of skin cancers, but it has increased 95 percent from 2000 – 2013.
What You Need to Know: Actinic Keratosis Pre-Cancer
Actinic keratosis is the most common sign of “pre-cancer,” and is a term used for an atypical mole that might develop into skin cancer. However, it is treated the same as early-stage skin cancer with a fast and easy removal in a dermatologist’s office. Traditionally, these removals—either for actinic keratosis or early-stage skin cancer—were modest. A small sample was taken to biopsy and sent to an off-site lab. If the lab reports showed actinic keratosis or skin cancer (with results coming back in one to two weeks), additional removals were required.
However, every time the off-site lab received a sample, they tested it for atypical or cancerous cells. If these cells touched the sample’s border, that was a sign that the excisions didn’t remove all of the dangerous cells. To decrease excisions and office visits, many dermatologists understandably began removing larger sections of skin with the intention of getting all cancerous cells at once. This certainly increased discomfort and risk of infection, while also leaving patients with a more visible scarring. This was in addition to the stress of having to wait for lab results that could take weeks.
The Mohs Difference
Mohs surgery is a simple approach that ensures a complete excision with minimal scarring in a single appointment. Not every dermatology office offers Mohs surgery, so if you want peace of mind and the smallest excision possible in just one appointment, make sure your dermatology office offers it. Mohs surgery works by removing small sections of the atypical or cancerous area. The sample is immediately tested using an in-office lab while the patient waits. If the results come back with all-clear borders, this is a sign that all of the dangerous cells have been removed. If not, a slightly larger sample is taken and immediately tested. This practice is repeated until the borders are clear.
Mohs surgery is pain-free, and the patient doesn’t feel anything during the excisions. The in-office wait time is pleasantly short because the lab that’s testing the sample is on-site. You can work, stream a TV show, read, or do anything else while you wait for the results. The benefits of Mohs surgery are vast, providing you with peace of mind in a single visit. To learn more about preventing sun damage or to schedule your annual skin check, call Spectrum Dermatology at (480) 948-8400.