Providing gold standard treatment for skin cancer

Dr. Moran looking at slide

One of only 13 in Canada, a new Mohs micrographic surgery program opened at Hotel Dieu Hospital in August 2015, giving patients access to the gold standard treatment for complex non-melanoma skin cancers. 

Mohs surgery is largely used to treat the two most common skin cancers—basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas—and is especially useful for cancers that are located in sensitive areas of the body where it is essential to preserve as much healthy tissue as possible (e.g., head, face, neck).

Performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthetic, the Mohs technique is extremely precise.  The surgeon slices away thin layers of cancer-containing skin and immediately examines the tissue under a microscope.  The tumour is progressively pared away, with the surgeon removing the minimum amount of tissue required to ensure disease-free surgical edges.  When the area is clear, the surgeon repairs the wound in a manner that achieves the best cosmetic result.

“While the procedure can mean a long day for the patient,” says Mohs surgeon Dr. Benvon Moran, “it has the benefit of allowing you to verify the margins are clear at the time of surgery, which increases the chance of a cure and reduces the need for further surgery.  The patient leaves knowing the cancer is gone and healthy skin has been preserved.”

With an excellent cure rate—up to 99 per cent—Mohs is a vital tool in the fight against escalating skin cancer rates, says Dr. Moran, especially in our region with its population of fair-skinned and aging patients.  Every year in Canada, more than 80,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed, more cases of cancer than breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer combined.

“We want to provide patients with the very best treatment options,” she says.  “Mohs therapy is one of the most advanced techniques available for removing and reconstructing areas of skin cancer.”