Skin Cancer and Alternative to Mohs Surgery

Skin Cancer and Alternative to Mohs Surgery

It is estimated that over 1 million new cases occur annually. It has also been estimated that nearly half of all Americans who live to age 65 will develop skin cancer at least once. The two most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. They account for approximately 96% of all diagnosed skin cancers. Together, these two are also referred to as nonmelanoma skin cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and accounts for more than 90% of all skin cancer in the U.S. These cancers almost never spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. They can, however, cause damage by growing and invading surrounding tissue. Squamous cell carcinoma is cancer that begins in the squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales under the microscope. Squamous cells are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Thus, squamous cell carcinomas can actually arise in any of these tissues. Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin occurs roughly one-quarter as often as basal cell carcinoma.

A surgical method that is often used to treat nonmelanoma skin cancer is called Mohs surgery. This highly specialized surgical technique involves first removing the visible tumor and then successive layers of skin one at a time until microscopic examination no longer reveals cancer cells. This surgery is performed while the patient is under local anesthesia. Removing and examining each layer takes about one hour, with much of this time spent looking at the removed skin. When done, the surgical wound is treated as needed. The treatment can include closing the wound with stitches, covering the surgical site with skin from another area of the body (skin graft), and moving healthy skin from a nearby area to cover the surgical wound (skin flap).

But, Mohs surgery is not the only way to successfully treat skin cancers? Surgery on the nose, ears, eyelids or lips may cause disfigurement or require reconstructive surgery under a general anesthetic to maintain the natural appearance. Brachytherapy with the Flexitron system is an effective alternative treatment for BCC (Basel Cell Carcinoma) and SCC (Squamous Cell Carcinoma) skin cancer and avoids the need for reconstructive surgery. It also has its advantages over surgery for patients with a large number of lesions, elderly patients, or patients who are otherwise inoperable, and advantages over external beam radiotherapy as it requires shorter treatment times and less side effects.

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