Nearly everyone is familiar with skin cancer, but not all skin cancers are created equal. Several types of skin cancers exist, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, which is the most dangerous.
If you’re concerned about or have been diagnosed with melanoma, Mohs surgery could be a good option, especially when we catch your cancer in the early stages. It’s a special type of surgery that removes all cancerous tissue while preserving your healthy skin.
At Manhattan Dermatology in New York City, board-certified dermatologists Wendy Long Mitchell, MD, and Vicki J. Levine, MD, specialize in Mohs surgery. Many of our patients wonder if Mohs surgery can cure their melanoma.
The answer depends on many factors. Keep reading to learn more about treating melanoma with Mohs surgery.
More about melanoma
Melanoma gets its name because it starts in the skin cells that make melanin, the darker colors of your skin. These cells, called melanocytes, produce more melanin when you spend time in the sun or any other ultraviolet (UV) rays.
While your body needs some sun exposure, too much UV radiation can cause your melanocytes to grow abnormally, leading to melanoma. Certain risk factors increase your chances of getting melanoma, which only accounts for 1% of all skin cancers. These risk factors include having:
- Fair skin and/or freckles
- Blonde or red hair
- Blue or green eyes
- Many moles
- A family or personal history of skin cancer
- A bad sunburn (especially that blisters)
- A history of using tanning beds
- A weakened immune system
Additional risk factors are excess sun exposure and living in a place with more UV exposure (e.g., high elevation).
Although being fair-skinned increases your chances of getting melanoma, people with darker skin tones aren’t immune and often develop melanoma in areas of their body with less melanin, like the soles of their feet, their palms, or their nails.
How Mohs surgery treats melanoma
Mohs micrographic surgery is a cutting-edge surgical technique that removes cancerous melanoma cells while keeping the surrounding healthy tissues intact.
In general, Mohs surgery for melanoma is best if you’re diagnosed with melanoma in situ, meaning the cancer hasn’t spread to the deeper layers of your skin.
In these cases of localized in situ melanoma, Mohs surgery has a 99% cure rate. Early detection is key to effective treatment, which is why it’s important to have regular skin cancer screenings at Manhattan Dermatology.
When Mohs surgery isn’t enough to treat melanoma
Mohs surgery is often the first step in treating early cases of melanoma. But if your melanoma spreads to a larger area of your skin or if you have signs of melanoma in your lymph nodes, you may need additional treatment, including:
- Additional surgeries
- Targeted cancer treatment
- Radiation therapy
The good news is that we catch most cases of melanoma early with regular skin checks. If your melanoma is more advanced, we work with you to determine the next steps in treatment.
Learn more about how Mohs surgery treats melanoma by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone at our Manhattan Dermatology office in Murray Hill or Midtown East, Manhattan.