There are several methods for the treatment of skin cancers and it is important to understand the differences between your options. Nonsurgical treatments include cryotherapy (deep freezing), topical creams and radiation therapy. The three surgical methods include simple excision, physical destruction (curettage with electrodesiccation) and the specialized Mohs Micrographic Surgery. Your skin cancer may not require Mohs, but depending on several factors it is often considered the “gold standard” for treatment.
Mohs surgery is unique in its precision. Instead of removing the whole clinically visible tumor and a large area of normal-appearing skin around it, the Mohs surgeon removes the minimum amount of healthy tissue and totally removes the cancer. Thin layers of tissue are systematically excised and examined under a microscope for malignant cells. When all areas of tissue are tumor-free, surgery is complete.
The technique has several major advantages. It preserves more normal tissue than any other method while at the same time allowing the surgeon to trace and eradicate areas of tumor that are invisible to the naked eye. The Mohs surgeon, after examining the tissue under a microscope, knows exactly how far the tumor extends. As a result, Mohs surgery is particularly suitable for the area around the eyes, and the nose, ears and mouth where the preservation of normal tissue is essential. Lastly, when other standard methods have been unsuccessful, Mohs surgery offers another chance for cure.
The procedure does not require general anesthesia, which permits its use on many patients who are poor candidates for conventional surgery. Most patients do not have to be hospitalized and can be managed on an outpatient basis. The surgery can usually be completed in half a day or less.
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