Skin cancer is more common in the United States than all other types of cancer combined. That’s a scary statistic, but fortunately, most kinds of skin cancer respond very well to early treatment. When caught and treated quickly, 99% of skin cancers are curable.
Because skin cancer is typically treated with surgery, choosing a skilled surgeon who is trained in the most advanced surgical approaches can play a significant role in treatment outcomes. And Mohs micrographic surgery is considered the gold standard for skin cancer removal and treatment.
Dr. Oswald Mikell leads our team here at Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry, with offices in the Hilton Head area of South Carolina. He’s a talented physician and well-respected expert in diagnosing and treating skin cancer of all types. Dr. Mikell is double board-certified in dermatology and cosmetic surgery and has extensive expertise as a trained Mohs surgical specialist.
And because he’s passionate about your emotional well-being as well as your physical health, Dr. Mikell uses his skill as a surgeon to ensure your incisions heal looking as cosmetically desirable as possible.
It’s never easy to hear “cancer” in combination with your health, but understanding the basics of skin cancer, why annual skin exams are so important, and what Mohs offers may help ease your worries.
The basics of skin cancer
Normal skin cells go through a constantly replenishing cycle of growth, development, and death. As old skin cells die, they make room for new, healthy cells. Skin cancer occurs when skin cells don’t die. Instead, damaged DNA within the cells causes them to continue growing and producing more abnormal cells, which can eventually invade other tissues.
The three most common types of skin cancer are:
Basal cell carcinoma
This type accounts for about 80% of all skin cancers and occurs in cells located in the lowest layer of the epidermis (skin). It can look like a sore that doesn’t heal, a shiny bump, or an irritated area of skin. It’s most common on areas that are regularly exposed to the sun. Early detection and treatment often prevent its spread to surrounding tissue.
Squamous cell carcinoma
About a million people in the US are diagnosed with squamous cell cancer every year. It occurs in the layer of skin that’s just under the surface and may appear as a rough, scaly patch of skin or a bump. It’s more frequently noted on sun-exposed areas but can also develop in other areas, such as the genitals or mucous membranes inside your mouth.
This type of skin cancer is the most aggressive, but, fortunately, it’s also the least common of the three types. It develops in the pigment-producing cells that give your skin, eyes, and hair their color. When detected and treated early, cure rates for melanoma are quite high.
The importance of annual skin exams
We encourage our patients to perform routine self-exams to track the appearance of moles or areas of concern. Often, however, skin cancer can develop in hard-to-see regions, or you may find it difficult to identify what’s normal and what’s not.
An annual skin exam done by a dermatologist is the best tool available for detecting and treating skin cancer early. That’s why, at Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry, we recommend everyone consider a comprehensive skin exam as part of their yearly preventive health care. Make an appointment with Dr. Mikell immediately, however, if you notice any concerning changes in your skin.
The advantages of Mohs micrographic surgery for skin cancer removal
Complete surgical removal of all abnormal cells is the underlying goal of skin cancer treatment. With traditional surgical approaches, we remove the visible cancerous tissue and excise a wide margin around the tumor to help ensure no abnormal cells remain near the targeted area.
Tissue samples taken from the edges of the affected area are then sent off-site for biopsy. You’ll need to return for further surgery if the biopsy reveals cancer cells in the tissue obtained from the margins.
With Mohs, Dr. Mikell removes one very thin layer of the abnormal tissue at a time, examines each layer under a microscope, and repeats the process as necessary until no cancer cells remain.
This approach allows us to precisely remove the cancerous tissue with the initial procedure and spares you wait time between your surgery and biopsy.
Also, cure rates are extremely high with Mohs because 100% of the abnormal skin is treated and examined carefully under the microscope. This greatly reduces the chance of reoccurrence. Only about 1% of tissue taken from the margins with traditional surgical excision is examined via biopsy.
The Mohs technique also leaves behind more healthy skin cells, which reduces healing time and greatly diminishes the appearance of surgical scars.
For expert skin care you can rely on, schedule a visit with Dr. Mikell at one of our offices in Hilton Head, Beaufort, or Okatie. Give us a call or click the “request appointment” button to get started.