Mohs Micrographic Surgery

By Nancy Steinbach

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

Health experts say that spending too much time in the sun can lead to skin cancer. It is a serious problem all over the world. More people have skin cancer than all other cancers combined.

Some kinds of skin cancer are deadly. Melanoma skin cancer can kill. Melanoma is a cancer of the pigment cells of the skin. It can spread to the lungs, brain, liver and bones if left untreated. It can be cured if it is found before it grows and spreads. Other skin cancers are not deadly. A skin cancer that is not too serious generally does not spread through the body.

Treatment for skin cancer includes the removal of the cancerous cells. This is done by using liquid nitrogen, electricity, radiation or an operation. One kind of operation is called Mohs (pronounced "moze") micrographic surgery.

It is used mostly for treating two of the most common forms of skin cancer. They are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Experts say Mohs surgery should be used when it is important not to destroy any more healthy tissue than is necessary. Experts say Mohs surgery has the highest cure rate of any skin cancer treatment, between ninety-five and ninety-nine percent.

A doctor doing Mohs surgery cuts out the cancer that can be seen, and some surrounding tissue. The doctor then creates a map of the wound area that will be used to locate any more cancer cells that may be present but cannot be seen. The removed tissue is immediately examined under a microscope. If cancer is found, more skin is removed, then studied under the microscope again.

This is repeated as many times as necessary until no more cancer is found. Doctors say removing only diseased tissue in this way saves healthy surrounding tissue. It also results in the least damage to the skin after the wound has healed.

Only specially trained doctors can perform Mohs surgery. The method was developed by American doctor Frederick Mohs in the Nineteen Thirties. It has been improved since that time. Today, doctors perform Mohs surgery in many areas of the world. Doctors perform the operation in the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, Taiwan and Thailand.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English