Anatomy of a skin cancer scar – The Oakland Press

Unprotected sunbathing was a youthful indiscretion for many teenage baby boomers. Going for the burn, we’d spend endless summer days on the beach, often slathered in baby oil. It rarely occurred to us that we’d pay a high price later on. We didn’t know that sun damage was cumulative.

At midlife, my skin felt a series of wake-up calls in the form of age spots, wrinkles, and several bouts of basal cell skin cancer.

For instance, there was the time I’d assumed that a lesion on my right cheek was nothing to worry about — just a slow-healing blemish that could be camouflaged with a swipe of powder blush.

But my dermatologist suspected otherwise when she noticed it during an annual full-body checkup. Days later, the biopsy report confirmed that a large basal cell epithelioma was spreading its roots beneath the surface of my cheek, just an inch below my right eye.

After delivering the scary news, my dermatologist referred me to a surgeon who specializes in the Mohs method, a microscopically controlled cancer surgery developed by Dr. Frederic Mohs in the 1930s.

Typically lasting from five to seven hours, Mohs surgery involves removing and examining a patient’s cancerous skin tissue, one layer at a time, until only cancer-free tissue remains. Afterward, the surgeon might opt ​​to close the wound using plastic surgery techniques or allow it to heal by itself, depending on its location.

The cure rate for Mohs surgery is high – up to 99% for some cancers. And while the stellar reputation of my surgeon was reassuring, I was nervous about the procedure — and worried about the new scar I’d soon acquire.

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