Skin Cancer Surgery

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells that happens when there is an uncontrollable growth of abnormal skin cells. Skin cancer usually takes place when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to increase rapidly and form malignant tumors.

Skin Cancer Surgery - Overview

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. Skin cancer usually takes place when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to increase rapidly and form malignant tumors. These cells originate from the cells of the epidermis, the superficial layer of the skin.

Mohs surgery
Mohs Surgery was discovered by Mr. Frederick Mohs in 1930s which is one of the most common solutions to treat skin cancer. This surgery is used when there is a high risk  that the skin cancer will to come back after treatment, when the extent of the cancer is not known, or when the goal of the treatment is to save as much healthy skin as possible, this may include cancers near the eye or other critical areas such as the central face, ears or fingers. Today, Mohs Surgery is one of the most effective techniques for basal cell carcinoma treatment and squamous cell carcinoma treatment – the two most common skin cancer types.

This surgery is performed by a surgeon with special training. In this procedure, the cancerous cells that are found in the skin are removed layer by layer from the skin until the removed layers show no sign of cancer cells. Mohs surgery is most often used on more visible areas to limit scarring and to ensure minimal damage to healthy skin cells around the affected areas. It is possible to achieve cancer-free margins with this procedure and thus, it is considered as an effective treatment for recurrent skin cancers.

Skin Cancer Surgery - Symptoms

Skin cancer develops primarily on areas that have been damaged by sun exposure that damages the skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs in women. But it can also be found on areas that rarely see the light of day — your palms, beneath your fingernails or toenails, and your genital area.

If you detect any change or difference in the color of your skin or change in the texture for a long time, an unusual skin growth or sore that doesn’t go away may be the first symptom of non-melanoma skin cancer. At first Skin cancer may just appear as a nodule, rash or irregular patch on the surface of the skin. If you see any of these symptoms it might be best to visit a skin specialist before it is too late. Mohs surgery is the best treatment for skin cancer as it is known to treat many types of cancers and minimize reoccurrence as well. This surgery is advised in the following cases:

  • If there is a need for treating large tumors with irregular borders which cannot be cured using conventional methods.
  • If you want to treat any body part where it is important to preserve healthy skin tissue for cosmetic reasons.
  • If you want to treat the recurrent skin cancer and prevent it from coming back.

Skin Cancer Surgery - Pre-Procedure

There are a number of important precautions and positive steps that the patient will be advised to take before Mohs surgery is performed. It is always recommended to inform your doctor beforehand if you are on any blood-thinning medication, or else it can result in excessive bleeding during your surgery. You will be also advised to avoid smoking at least 2-3 days and alcohol before your surgery as it can severely affect the outcome of the surgery. During your surgery you will be asked to wear loose clothing in the area affected by skin cancer. You should also avoid any kind of make-up or lotion if the surgery will be performed on your face. You will also be given certain instructions and some medications that must be taken before the procedure by your doctor.

Skin Cancer Surgery - During Procedure

The Mohs surgery is performed under an injected local anesthesia that is given as an outpatient procedure. The surgeon will numb your skin so that you don’t feel the pain of the surgery. This surgery lasts for 4 to 6 hours, based on the size of the tumor. Then the surgeon will mark the affected area and sterilize it. After that, the surgeon starts removing a very thin layer of the skin (including the tumor) and then checks the removed sample under a microscope and if cancer cells are seen, another layer is removed and examined. One by one, tissue layers are removed until the skin samples are free of cancer cells and the doctor finds a layer of healthy tissue without any sign of cancer. This procedure is a slow process, often taking several hours, but it only means that more normal skin near the tumor can be saved.

Thus, in Mohs surgery, only the affected tissues are removed and healthy tissue is spared. At last the surgeon will close the wound with stitches. Normally, it takes a few days to get the repaired.

Skin Cancer Surgery - Post-Procedure

After Mohs surgery is completed, most of the patients find the recovery process simple and easy. This surgery will leave you with minimal pain. But there are few precautions that are advised by the doctor that may include- avoiding any strenuous activity for at least a week post the operation. If the patient notices increased tenderness for many days, fever or yellow drainage from the wound, they should contact their surgeon immediately. A patient may require a reconstructive repair of the wound if the tumor was large and aggressive. Post-surgery your surgeon arranges a schedule of post-surgical checkups that may extend many years into the future. The recovery time in Mohs surgery largely depends on the size of the tumor and its location on the body.

Skin Cancer Surgery - Risk & Complications

Though there are a very few risks associated with skin cancer treatment, there are still some complications that may occur during or after the procedure. Before you make any decision you must carefully analyze all the risk factors that are associated with the surgery. Some of these complications include:

  • Post-operative or prolonged pain in the site of the surgery
  • Blood clots are also formed around the wound or other body parts
  • Infection 
  • Excessive bleeding

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