March 8, 2019

UAMS’ Cutting-Edge Skin Cancer Treatment Reverses Sun Damage

Coleen Hyde, a skin cancer patient, shown after her treatment at UAMS.

Coleen Hyde, a skin cancer patient, shown after her treatment at UAMS.

Coleen Hyde has fond memories of idyllic days in the sun during her youth. Living in California near the coast, deep tans were in vogue, sunscreen was not widely available at the drug stores and she wasn’t aware of damage from the sun’s rays.

After she moved to Arkansas more than 20 years ago, Coleen began using sunscreen and taking care of her skin. But she became concerned about some irregularities on her skin and began seeing a dermatologist to have suspicious growths removed. When Coleen learned of Mohs micrographic surgery at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, she was relieved to find state-of-the-art treatment for skin cancers on her face and neck.

Skin cancer doesn’t have an age or a face — 90% of all melanomas are related to time in the sun, and melanoma is one of the most common cancers in people under the age of 30. Also, people of all skin tones can get skin cancer and need to use sunscreen. But most importantly, melanoma is aggressive and can be deadly, so early intervention is crucial.

With up to a 99% success rate, Mohs micrographic surgery is one of the most advanced and effective surgical methods for treating skin cancer. Using this procedure, malignant skin cancers are removed in thin, pie-shaped pieces and examined immediately under a microscope to determine if all malignant tissue was removed. UAMS surgeons work to remove the skin cancer while ensuring the best possible cosmetic appearance for patients.

During one of her visits to the clinic, Coleen thought she would have a small growth on her nose removed but was dismayed to learn that damage under the skin was more extensive than she anticipated. While undergoing the Mohs procedure at UAMS, she was consulted and offered options during every step of the process. Even though skin grafting was required, Coleen was pleased with the expertise of her surgical team and the results. She was also relieved to know that since Mohs is a minimally invasive procedure, she would not need to be put to sleep or confined to a hospital bed.

Colleen’s procedure was performed in the UAMS Dermatology Cancer Clinic. Many of the patients who receive this procedure have years of sun exposure as a result of living in the south or coastal areas of the country. Most estimates assume up to 80% of our sun damage has occurred before a patient reaches the age of 18. The Mohs surgical procedure is ideal for treating skin cancer on the face and neck areas because healthy tissue can be spared, and scarring is reduced.

Coleen said, “I was anxious, but the staff was very diligent, providing extra care and concern. In addition to wonderful results that were achieved, the entire team treated me with courtesy and respect.”

For patients who don’t have skin cancer but want to improve skin imperfections due to sun damage, the UAMS dermatology services offers a wide range of cosmetic procedures. In addition, sunscreen must be used more than once a day; the reapplication is very important. Although some signs of skin damage can be reversed, diligence in protection from the sun is crucial, using a sunscreen of 30 or higher and reapplying every three to four hours.

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