Newly opened outpatient surgical suites at The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center have enabled the addition of another set of treatments to its arsenal: Mohs surgery.
“Mohs surgery is a technique used to remove skin cancers, such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, that occur in cosmetically sensitive areas,” says Naiara Barbosa, MD, FAAD, director of Mohs Surgery and Dermatologic Oncology at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center. “These areas include the face, neck and hands.”
Mohs surgery is performed under local anesthesia. The Mohs surgeon removes a thin layer of skin, which includes the tumor and a small margin of healthy skin. This layer is then processed in an on-site laboratory so that the surgeon can examine it to check for residual cancer cells. The surgeon continues to remove additional layers of skin until the tumor is completely removed.
Barbosa says the advantage of Mohs surgery is that it has the highest cure rate of all skin cancer surgeries while preserving as much healthy skin as possible. For that reason, she says, it can be used to remove other skin cancers, including very thin melanomas.
New Mexicans have high rates of skin cancer – and high rates of aggressive skin cancers – because of the strong sunlight and many sunny days here. And, Barbosa warns, anyone can get skin cancer. “Skin cancer occurs in all ethnicities; people with darker skin can receive a skin cancer diagnosis.”
The surgical suites opened in mid-December. They are used for Mohs surgery and other surgical skin procedures to remove malignant and benign lesions. UNM Cancer Center surgeons also use them to perform other cancer-related surgical procedures that don’t require a hospital stay.
Naiara Barbosa, MD, FAAD, is an assistant professor in the departments of Dermatology and Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology, at the UNM School of Medicine. She serves as director of Mohs Surgery and Dermatologic Oncology at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center.