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Healthy Living: Watching out for skin cancer can't wait

Treating skin cancer sounds like a scary task, but experts say that promptly addressing common skin cancers can enable dermatologists to use a safer procedure that is less invasive than you might think.

Posted: Feb 17, 2021 12:45 PM
Updated: Feb 17, 2021 3:22 PM

EUGENE, Ore.-- Treating skin cancer sounds like a scary task, but experts say that promptly addressing common skin cancers can enable dermatologists to use a procedure called Mohs Micrographic Surgery that is safer and less invasive than you might think.

According to Oregon Medical Group dermatologist Dr. Rie Takahashi, bumps and lesions on your skin are never something to ignore. They can occur anywhere on your skin but appear most commonly on the hands and face.

"Patients often come in and say, I have this bump on my face and it's been there for a little while, and then it became painful and now it's been a couple of months and it's bleeding and tender and it just won't go away," she said. "It can take your life because ultimately it can metastasize (or spread to other parts of the body) and be very serious."

After visiting the dermatologist for a full skin check and possibly a biopsy, they may determine that Mohs Surgery is a possibility.

The procedure is mostly used for common skin cancers like basal and squamous cell carcinomas but can be used for melanoma and other types as well. Mohs is sometimes recommended for cancers in areas where keeping as much tissue as possible is important like the face, hands and genitals.

"We actually take just around what the tumor looks like to the naked eye," said Takahashi.

During Mohs surgery, cancerous tissue is removed in precise, thin layers that is then examined by a pathologist for cancer cells. If malignant cells are found, more tissue is removed until the cancer is gone.

According to Dr. Takahashi, the procedure is safe, highly effective and saves healthy tissue by targeting only the cancerous tissue.

"A lot of patients come in if it's their first time and they're nervous, and we say don't be, let us do the heavy lifting," she said.

Catching skin cancers before they metastasize can be a life-saving measure, which is why Takahashi recommends getting a general skin screening with a dermatologist for peace of mind.

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