Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, impacting over 5.4 million individuals each year. But even though there are many cases of skin cancer, it’s important to understand that not every incidence of skin cancer is the same. In fact, most skin cancer cases are unique—and should be treated as such.
- Mohs surgery
Read on for more information on these incredible skin cancer treatments including what makes them different, how they work, and what you can expect from each treatment.
Developed by Dr. Fredrick Mohs in the 1930s, Mohs surgery is a skin cancer treatment that involves a repeated series of surgical excisions followed by a microscopic examination of the tissue. The treatment is extremely effective. It has an unparalleled 98% cure rate for removing Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
What makes Mohs surgery different?
The main differentiator for Mohs surgery is the treatment’s level of precision. In a typical routine excision, surgeons would remove the tumor and later examine if the extraction was successful. However, Mohs surgery is distinct from routine excisions, because we’ll examine your bordering tissues during surgery rather than after.
By examining your tissues during surgery, we can ensure that your skin cancer is completely evaluated, tested, and removed before you leave our office.
How does the surgery work?
Mohs surgery involves the precise removal of cancerous tissue and immediate evaluation under a microscope until a healthy margin around the tumor is obtained. This layer by layer technique minimizes the amount of tissue excised to remove the tumor.
Once the tumor is clear, our surgeons will focus on a cosmetic wound close to minimize defect or scarring. This minimally invasive surgery is extremely effective, with a 99% cure rate.
What can you expect?
When you arrive for your Mohs procedure, you’ll be given local anesthesia so you remain comfortable during the duration of your treatment. After your procedure, your recovery time will vary depending on the scope of your cancer. Some patients heal in a matter of days; others can take several weeks.
Brachytherapy is another skin cancer treatment that many are unaware of. It’s typically used to treat small skin cancers in hard-to-reach places because it involves a great degree of precision. Brachytherapy’s cure rate is close to 100% and the treatment is completely painless.
What makes the treatment different?
Brachytherapy is a unique skin cancer treatment that uses low-energy x-rays to remove cancerous cells. Unlike the x-rays that are commonly generated from radiation treatments, the x-rays used within brachytherapy are generated electronically, so there’s no risk to the internal damage radioactivity can potentially leave behind after treatment.
How does brachytherapy work?
With each brachytherapy treatment, a micro-miniaturized x-ray tube is gently placed on the lesion itself. The x-ray tube is only slightly bigger than a grain a rice, allowing for complete control and precision. This control and precision greatly reduces the risk of impact on other bordering, healthy tissue.
Another factor that goes into brachytherapy is the short proximity of the x-ray. The low-energy x-ray is used within a short distance of your skin, which helps penetrate only the first few millimeters of tissue.
What to expect from brachytherapy
The treatment for brachytherapy takes five minutes or less to complete. No anesthesia, injections, or incisions are required as the procedure is completely painless.
Brachytherapy is given twice a week for a total of eight visits. Other methods can take up to six weeks and require daily visits. Immediately after your procedure, you’ll be able to continue on with your daily activities without any limitations.
Immunotherapy is a prescribed as a pill or topical cream. It works in comparison to chemotherapy in your body, activating your immune system to fight off existing cancer cells.
What makes immunotherapy different?
Immunotherapy is essentially chemotherapy for your skin. Chemotherapy for your skin works to destroy the mutated cells present in actinic keratosis, the precursors to Squamous Cell Carcinoma, or superficial cancers. It is prescribed as a pill or topical cream, which is different than what many are used to when it comes to skin cancer treatments.
How does it work?
Cancer cells are much different from normal cells in your body. Cancer cells don’t die normally or as easily. Rather, they rapidly divide and frequently change, or mutate, to evade your immune system. Because of this, your immune system doesn’t register that these cells are harmful to your body.
However, immunotherapy assists with this conflict. Immunotherapy medication alerts your immune system about these mutated cells so that it can locate and attack them.
What you can expect from immunotherapy
Immunotherapy can cause a variety of side effects including skin irritation, nausea, and diarrhea. To determine whether immunotherapy is right for you, we recommend coming in for a consultation appointment.
How to know which treatment is right for you
At Arizona Dermatology, we offer a variety of skin cancer treatments in addition to Mohs surgery, brachytherapy, and immunotherapy. With so many skin cancer treatments available, it’s important to establish which treatment will be most effective for your needs.
The best way to determine what treatment is right for you is to come in for a consultation appointment. During your appointment, we’ll work together to evaluate your symptoms, establish your personal goals, and propose a solution.
Evaluate your symptoms
During your appointment, we’ll properly examine and evaluate your symptoms to have a better understanding of your skin cancer case.
During this time, we’ll look at the following characteristics:
- Type of cancer
- Size of cancer
- Location of cancer
- Stage of cancer (if applicable)
These characteristics allow us to medically define your condition and conclude whether your treatment should be aggressive or gentle, precise or broad, or anything in between.
Establish your goals
After we’ve defined your condition medically, we’ll want to get to know you personally. We’ll do this by asking a variety of questions, including:
- Is this the first time you’ve been impacted by skin cancer?
- How long ago did you notice your symptoms?
- Are you comfortable with surgery?
- Is there anything else we should know?
Your answers to these questions allow us to get to know you on a personal level. This helps us better understand what treatment you’ll feel most comfortable with.
Propose a solution
Based off our observations and your answers to our questions, we’ll propose a treatment plan at the end of your consultation appointment. When we propose a treatment plan for your skin cancer, we’re confident in our recommendation and, knowing that we’re industry experts, you should be too.
If you decide to move forward with our proposed solution, we’ll help you schedule an appointment for your procedure.
Your next steps
At Arizona Dermatology, our medical professionals are industry leaders in the healthcare and skin cancer industry. To discuss your treatment options, give us a call or come in to see us at one of our seven locations across the Phoenix area.