There are so many ways to take care of your skin. You might moisturize daily, exfoliate on a regular basis, drink lots of water, get a good night’s sleep, and maintain a healthy diet. But no matter how well you treat your skin, it’s still susceptible to various conditions. For instance, skin cancer affects over 3 million people in the U.S. annually. And those afflicted with skin cancer must respond quickly to prevent its further spread.
The good news is that many cases of skin cancer can be completely eradicated with the proper surgical methods. Mohs micrographic surgery has become the most common and effective option for removing basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs), but it’s not the only procedure available for treating or removing skin cancer. If you’re diagnosed with skin cancer, you and your dermatologist must determine which method is right for you.
Let’s explore the similarities and differences between these various skin cancer surgeries.
The Mohs surgical procedure consists of two basic components: a scalpel and a high-powered microscope. This procedure aims to fully eliminate the tumor while minimizing damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. In order to achieve these goals, the practitioner removes one layer of the lesion at a time, examining the each specimen underneath the microscope to understand the depth and direction of the cancer. Once there is no more evidence of cancer to be seen, the procedure is complete and the damaged skin is repaired.
Aside from Mohs surgery, there are two other effective methods for removing BCCs and SCCs, standard surgical excision and electrodesiccation/curettage.
Unlike Mohs, the entire tumor is removed all at once during a standard excision procedure, and only a small portion of the tumor is examined under a microscope. While this all makes for a faster procedure, it’s not quite as reliable as Mohs and can also result in major scarring. Patients are more likely to see a recurrence of their skin cancer following a standard excision than they are following Mohs surgery.
Electrodesiccation and curettage involve the use of a curette (a precise scooping tool) to remove skin cancer cells and an electrical probe to stop any bleeding. This procedure is less invasive than Mohs or standard excision, and it’s primarily used to remove smaller carcinomas near the upper layers of skin. Scarring can occur afterward but it’s often minimal. Additionally, this method isn’t as reliable at completely eradicating skin cancer as Mohs or standard excisions.
So, which skin cancer treatment/surgical procedure is right for you? If your BCC or SCC is small and hasn’t spread deeper than the top layers of skin, electrodesiccation/curettage may be all that’s necessary. For deeper, larger tumors, though, standard excision or Mohs are your best bets. As mentioned earlier, Mohs is more reliable and boasts a higher cure rate (98%) than standard surgical excisions. Plus, Mohs is often the cheaper of the two surgeries. For these reasons, more and more patients are directed toward Mohs micrographic surgery to eliminate their basal or squamous cell carcinoma.
As always though, follow your dermatologist’s instructions. They may recommend one of these three options above the others for reasons related to your specific skin type, medical history, or tumor in question. So, while Mohs surgery remains the best option overall, you might not be a good candidate for it. And, if not, know that there are other ways to treat your skin cancer. Premier Dermatology Partners can give you more information regarding various types of skin cancer, prevention methods, and treatment options.
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