Specialized Treatments in Skin Cancer Therapy

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By Lana Maciel, MD Anderson Staff Writer

As the most common type of cancer in the United States, skin cancer will affect an estimated 50% of Americans at least once by the time they reach age 65, according to the National Cancer Institute. It's an alarming statistic, but not terribly surprising, considering the amount of time many Americans might spend exposed and unprotected to the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.

This overexposure to the sun is often the most common cause of skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. In some cases, patients develop these cancers on exposed areas of the skin where tissue conservation is important, such as on the face.

Mohs SurgeryThis can make surgery a scary endeavor for patients who fear the surgery might leave disfiguring scars. Fortunately, through a procedure called Mohs micrographic surgery, surgeons are able to accurately remove the cancerous tissue while leaving healthy tissue intact and reducing the possibility of scarring.

Rather than use a standard surgical procedure that removes tumors and the entire surrounding area, the Mohs procedure maps and tracks the tumor stage by stage, testing 100% of the margins until it is clear. This method ensures maximum preservation of healthy tissue and complete removal of cancerous cells.

The fall issue of Conquest, MD Anderson's external magazine, introduced readers to the Mohs and Dermasurgery Unit, a small but integral part of the institution's Department of Dermatology. Patients in the Mohs Unit receive highly specialized therapy for skin cancers, lesions and sun-damaged skin with a treatment plan that optimizes recovery and overall health.

Read more about this procedure and the Mohs and Dermasurgery Unit, in Conquest.

Related story:
Patient Finds Hope After Battling Three Forms of Cancer
While battling metastatic colon cancer, Dennis Parker developed two cases of superficial skin cancer on his face, both of which were successfully removed through Mohs surgery, leaving no scars. Read more about Dennis Parker

MD Anderson resources:
MD Anderson Mohs and Dermasurgery Unit

Deborah Mac Farlane, M.D.

Department of Dermatology

Additional resources:
Sun Protection: Cancer Trends Progress Report (National Cancer Institute)

Skin cancer facts (American Cancer Society)

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