Dispelling the Fear Associated with the Dreaded “C” Word

HumAdminMohs Surgery, The Triangle Physician

Cancer… A word that elicits the most unwanted, sinister cousins: Fear and Dread.

Fortunately the most common form of cancer, skin cancer, is treatable. Still, the phobia of cancer persists and is often more detrimental than the disease. The challenge is, the anxiety that most feel delays the opportunity for adequate care. Delays can allow the illness to become more severe.

Contrary to widely held beliefs, a diagnosis of skin cancer is not a death sentence. Most skin cancer is preventable and, when diagnosed, is treatable. One treatment that eradicates most, if not all, of the skin cancer is Mohs micrographic surgery.

An outpatient procedure, Mohs provides the highest reported cure rate by enabling doctors to check 100 percent of the margin, unlike other procedures that provide only a cross-sectional look at the cancer. The immediate and thorough microscopic exam of the diseased tissue ensures all cancerous cells have been removed. In addition to minimizing the chances of regrowth, Mohs preserves healthy tissue and minimizes the cosmetic impact of surgery. The procedure is performed in the office and under local anesthesia.

Here are 10 of the most important facts you should know about skin cancer and Mohs micrographic surgery:

  1. Melanoma can be readily identified with screening, with the most common areas being the torso on men and the legs on women.
  2. Melanoma is typically not a large raised lesion, but instead a flat mark about six millimeters or the size of a pencil eraser, with color variation and asymmetry
  3. The superficial appearance of skin cancer may be larger than it appears for the area may have roots, so good margin control during surgery is essential.
  4. Mohs surgery offers the highest cure rate of any skin cancer removal technique.
  5. Basal and squamous cell skin cancers have up to a 98 percent, five-year cure rate.
  6. Sunscreen creates a false sense of protection from the sun, as it blocks only ultraviolet B light, which causes sunburns, but not the equally damaging ultraviolet A light. This also allows extensive exposure, since people don’t burn while getting hours of UVA exposure.
  7. The Mohs technique spares skin, which is of great importance for the face, neck, hands and lower legs.
  8. Reconstruction is an integral part of care for skin cancer patients.
  9. “Dr. Google,” or Internet-based research, is the most dangerous source of misinformation in self-treating skin cancer.
  10. An estimated 40-50 percent of melanomas are not totally sun-induced but genetic mutations possibly triggered by UVA light exposure.

When referring patients for skin screenings or skin cancer treatment, look for dermatologists who are fellows of the American Society of Mohs Surgery, specially trained to perform the Mohs Micrographic surgical removal of skin cancer and other malignancies. Also look for an office that offers complete care for skin cancer, from initial screenings and treatment planning to reconstruction and follow-up care.

As seen in Triangle Physician


Dr. WilmothDr. Gregory Wilmoth, a board-certified dermatologist at Southern Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center in Raleigh, specializes in Mohs surgery and skin cancer reconstruction, among other specialties. He earned his bachelor of science degree in chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his medical degree from Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Wake Forest University. He completed his internship at North Carolina Baptist Hospital and residency at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dr. Wilmoth is a fellow of the American Society for Mohs Surgery. He is a member of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association and the North Carolina Medical Society.