Skin Cancer Screening
Skin Cancer Screening / Mole Exams
Full-body skin exams are an important tool in screening patients for benign or cancerous lesions that they may not have been able to see or recognize on their own. From head to toe and back to front, we inspect the skin for any suspicious growths. This quick and painless preventive measure is an invaluable tool in the early detection of skin cancer as well as many other dermatological conditions.
Moles and other birthmarks are benign pigmented spots or patches of skin that range in color from tan, brown and black (moles) to red, pink or purple (vascular lesions, such as strawberry hemangiomas or port wine stains). Though most birthmarks are harmless, they may develop into cancer. Moles exhibiting any of the following warning signs should be examined by Dr. Potozkin immediately:
- Larger than six millimeters
- Itches or bleeds
- Rapidly changes in color, size or shape
- Has multiple colors
- Is located where it can’t be easily monitored, such as on the scalp
Depending on their depth, location and color, as well as the patient’s skin type, age and other factors, treatment for benign but unattractive birthmarks may take the form of laser or pulsed light therapy, or surgical excision.
While most moles and other skin growths are not of medical concern, some patients may be bothered by their appearance or may be at risk for developing cancer or other conditions, and seek treatment to remove targeted lesions. Mole removal can be performed using several different techniques, depending on the type, size and location of the lesion, as well as the patient’s skin type and age.
Some of the most common mole removal procedures include surgical excision, cauterizations, cryotherapy, pulsed light therapy or laser removal. Your doctor will determine which type of treatment is best for you after a thorough evaluation of your condition.
Mohs Micrographic Surgery is a safe and effective treatment for skin cancer that thoroughly excises the tumor while only mildly disturbing surrounding tissue. It is the only skin cancer treatment available that targets only cancerous tissue through comprehensive microscopic examination of the affected area.
Designed by Frederic E. Mohs, M.D., in the 1930s, Mohs Surgery excises not only the visible tumor but also any “roots” that may have extended beneath the surface of the skin. Five-year cure rates have been demonstrated up to 99 percent for first-treatment cancers and 95 percent for recurring cancers.
This procedure is most commonly used for the treatment of basal and squamous cell carcinomas, the two most common types of skin cancer, although it can also be used to treat other types of cancer. Mohs surgery is often recommended for recurring cancer because its results are so thorough. It is also ideal for treating cancer in cosmetically and functionally prominent areas such as the nose, eyelids, lips, hairline, hands, feet and genitals.
Mohs Surgery Procedure
Mohs surgery is performed on an outpatient basis in our office. During the Mohs surgery procedure, the affected area is numbed with a local anesthetic. Layers of skin are removed and then the area is closely examined to see if the cancer has been thoroughly eradicated. This process significantly reduces damage to surrounding tissue while effectively removing all traces of cancer.
Most Mohs procedures can be performed in three or less stages, which usually takes less than four hours to perform. Some cases may take longer, as there is no way of predicting the extent of cancer growth before treatment begins. Patients should arrange for someone to take them home following surgery.
Recovery and Results from Mohs Surgery
After Mohs surgery, patients may experience mild discomfort, bruising and swelling around the treated area. Prescription pain medication is available for patients if needed, although most only require Tylenol for pain relief.
There will be scarring after Mohs surgery once the area is healed, although the scars from this procedure are often smaller than those from other excision procedures. Our primary goal in performing Mohs Surgery is to cure your skin cancer. Our secondary goal is to get the best cosmetic and functional repair of the surgical defect. Compared to other skin cancer treatments, Mohs Surgery has a very high success rate. No other treatment method can offer this high cure rate.
Risks of Mohs Surgery
Although Mohs surgery is considered safe for most patients, there are certain risks involved with any type of surgical procedure. Some of these risks may include numbness, muscle weakness, tenderness, itching, pain and failure of skin grafts. These risks are considered rare and, if they do occur, are usually mild and temporary. Patients can reduce the risk of complications by choosing an experienced Mohs surgeon such as Dr. Potozkin to perform their treatment, and by following the surgeon’s instructions after the procedure.