Skin cancer is diagnosed in more than two million people each year, and one in five will develop skin cancer in their lifetime according to Skincancer.org. Many skin cancers occur on the face and their removal can be disfiguring.
During the 60s and 70s, a technique called Mohs microscopic surgery came of age and “is currently the most precise, tissue-sparing method for the treatment of basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, the most common cancers in the United States.”
Mohs surgery has also begun to be used to treat certain types of melanoma. This is possible due to advances in special stains which are known as immunocytochemistry stains, which can better indentify the cells where melanoma occurs.
The unique feature of Mohs surgery is the meticulous testing of the tissue layers under the cancer. First, the doctor removes the visible lesion. Then, he removes a thin layer of skin underneath.
He maps and color-codes the margins of the lesion and microscopically examines the remaining skin to determine if it is cancer-free. If it is not, then he carefully removes another thin layer of skin until all the borders appear clear.
The Mohs method has shown a 99 percent cure rate for most cancers, reported Skincancer.org. It offers the highest chance of a cure in the treatment of recurrent cancers. Other sources state the cure rate is 96-99 percent, 94 percent for recurrent basal cell cancers.
Mohs surgery is often used when preservation of the maximum amount of skin is desired so lesions around the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hairline, hands, feet and genitals are common locations for its use, stated Mayoclinic.com. It eliminates the need to guess and take larger amounts to ensure the cancer has been entirely removed.
Mohs surgery is also used when a cancerous lesion has borders that are difficult to determine, are very large or aggressive, and for those skin cancers that are known to have a high incidence of reoccurrence.
Mohs surgery is also best used for treatment of cancer in places that have received radiation treatment, have scars, and for immuno-supressed patients according to Perry Robins, MD.