Say goodbye to surgery as the only way to treat skin cancer. These new techniques treat, reduce and eliminate the disease – and they are less invasive.

Skin cancer is by far the most common of all cancers. Every year in the United States alone, 3.3 million people are treated, and one in five Americans can expect to develop the disease.

The good news is that there are new techniques that doctors can use to detect, treat and eliminate skin cancer. Ashley Wysong, MD, MS, assistant professor of clinical dermatology and director of Mohs and dermatologic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, performs routine surgery on melanoma patients using the latest technology as a dermatologist in the USC Department of Dermatology at Keck Medicine of USC.

Melanoma is primarily a surgical disease, and it is extremely important that it is treated right the first time,” Dr. Wysong said.

Mohs micrographic surgery

In the past, doctors removed a large area around the tumor to ensure that all cancer was caught. With Mohs micrographic surgery, a specialty of Dr. Wysong’s, very thin layers of skin are removed one at a time, with each examined under the microscope. When a layer is cancer-free, the surgery is finished.

“Mohs micrographic surgery provides complete margin assessment to ensure every melanoma cell is removed from the skin,” Dr. Wysong said. “It also spares as much normal tissue as possible as the tumor is removed layer by layer. This is particularly helpful for patients with thin melanomas on the head and neck or other cosmetic or functionally sensitive areas.”

Novel immune therapies

Melanoma is one of the most challenging malignancies to treat – and it often has a poor outcome. Yet new research that targets the immune system is showing great promise.

These targeted therapies for metastatic melanoma help the body develop anti-tumor immunities to the advanced-stage disease and in some cases are more effective than chemotherapy. There also is evidence that combined treatments, such as shrinking the tumor before surgery, prove effective against skin cancer.

Genome sequencing

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to cancer, genome sequencing personalizes treatment based on a person’s genetic makeup. “In the era of precision medicine, we like to think we are at the forefront in offering a personalized approach to each individual rate or high-risk skin tumor,” Dr. Wysong said.

Make sure your dermatologist shares both traditional and innovative approaches for you to choose from – and are trained to treat melanoma in the most appropriate way for your individual case.

“When caught in the early stages, melanoma very rarely goes outside of the skin and is highly curable,” Dr. Wysong said. “Your dermatologist or dermatologic surgeon could surgically remove the cancer using local anesthesia.”

Are you concerned about a spot or mole on your skin? The USC Department of Dermatology at Keck Medicine of USC is recognized nationally for providing the highest quality of dermatology care.

Schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to learn more. If you are in the Los Angeles area, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visit http://dermatology.keckmedicine.org/

By Heidi Tyline King