Health Info & Resources for Seniors
Most older adults, especially women, can remember slathering on baby oil and baking in the sun for hours in pursuit of that perfect tan. Other seniors who worked in construction, farming, and other outdoor professions, never considered applying sunscreen in their youth. At that time, it was considered harmless — even healthy — to soak in the sun’s rays.
Years later, they learned that sun exposure not only causes wrinkles, it also increases the risk of skin cancer, especially on exposed areas like the face and hands. By then, however, the damage had already been done, even though skin cancer lesions might not form until decades later.
Now, St. Luke’s dermatologists offer skin-sparring Mohs surgery, a precise and effective procedure to treat skin cancer that has a high risk of recurrence on the face and other sensitive areas.
Fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon Ryan Johnson, MD, of St. Luke’s Dermatology, explained that the procedure is the most effective technique for treating many basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, the two most common types of skin cancers. The Mohs surgery cure rate is 99% for an untreated skin cancer growth and 94% for a recurring tumor. The procedure is particularly effective for treating cosmetically- and functionally-sensitive areas. These includes the nose, lips, ears, scalp, genitals, fingers, toes, and around the eyes.
“Mohs surgery is a win-win,” Dr. Johnson said. “We have high cure rates, and we remove less healthy skin, which means smaller scars for patients. Over time, the removal site continues to heal for an even more cosmetically-appealing appearance.”
Another advantage of Mohs surgery is that the procedure is performed in one visit, according to Stephen Senft, MD, also of St. Luke’s Dermatology. Traditionally, a tumor is removed and sent to a lab for testing. If tests find cancerous cells in surrounding tissue, the patient must return for a second surgery.
“At the end of the Mohs surgery procedure, we are usually able to say to our patient that the tumor margins are clear, and the chance of recurrence is very low,” Dr. Senft said. “It’s gratifying when a patient comes back and says, ‘This looks great. I was so worried and now it’s very presentable.’ A lot of anxiety is alleviated.”
Dr. Senft has developed close relationships with many of his patients, he said, because each procedure can last several hours. “There are people who have 10, 20 skin cancers removed in their lives so you get to know them very well.”
Dr. Senft joined St. Luke’s Dermatology three years ago after many years of private practice.
“Being a Mohs surgeon at St. Luke’s is great because we have the entire health network behind us,” Dr. Senft said. “At St. Luke’s Anderson, we have the backup of ears, nose, and throat physicians and plastic surgeons, and have access to the hospital’s emergency team. If it’s a particularly difficult lesion, we can consult with, and refer to, oncologists, surgical oncologists, or radiation therapists. They’re all right here at Anderson.”
Both Dr. Johnson and Dr. Senft encourage people who have had skin cancer, or have a family history of the disease, to be checked regularly by a dermatologist or their primary care doctor.
To schedule a Mohs surgery appointment with Dr. Senft or Dr. Johnson, call 484-503-MOHS (6647).