Mohs Surgery


Pre-S:  The subject’s not pretty–but you’ll be more so, if you read…Remember, I’m no expert in medicine.  Just share what I’ve learned over time (and I DO have that.)


I have to say:  When I’m wrong, I really don’t have a problem admitting it. In the case of Mohs surgery, I found out that it isn’t what I thought—after all.  More to the point, it’s probably a good way to go, in the treatment of skin cancers, specifically those in highly-visible areas. After all, a divot (not the golf kind) on the tip of the nose is never good. Let me explain.

Two years ago, I was certain a dermatologist in Asheville was scamming me.  Why?  He examined my face and then took a top layer of small suspect area (a shaving) and sent it off for analysis (I have skin cancer, so this happens a lot).  It came back positive (remember, in medicine,  ‘positive’ isn’t good). I waited two weeks for that area to heal.

He called me with the news that he wanted me back, so he could  ‘go deeper’ and  get the rest of it, and I said, “No.” I saw no purpose to what I regarded a redundant act, a way to charge me for two visits. I asked him what the worse was that could happen and it sounded like reoccurrence, tho’ annoying, wasn’t life-threatening.  We weren’t talking about melanoma (if it were, I’d have let him excise whatever he needed to.)

I felt confident in my decision…

But then I’d learn, when I returned to Rhode Island, that Mohs surgery is the current course of treatment for us who suffer skin cancers in visible areas. With this, doctors determine ahead of time just how invasive they need to be, depending upon the type of cancer. They want scarring to be minimal, and that’s a good thing. As a result, I’ve now had Mohs surgery on two more occasions with Top Doc, Lynn Iler’s staff in East Greenwich.

The reason I’m extra-careful in determining what I do is past experience.

Early in my life (those dreadful teen years,) I suffered acne.  At times, it was terrible. In desperation, my Mom took me to a dermatologist who gave me medication, but it didn’t work. He recommended I go out, and sit in the sun, to sort of ‘bake it out of me.’

And I, being someone who does anything ‘over the top,’ took him at his word.  So I went out, in March (it’s still bleakly cold in Rhode Island then) and sat swaddled in blankets with an aluminum foil collar under my chin to intensify the effect. I’d already applied baby oil oil to my face, to ramp up the rays, and with those twin engines in gear, my face was basically in a fry-o-lator.

I’d learn later, in life, dermatologists did a 180 regarding their stand on the benefits of sun exposure. But, at the time, they touted that course to counteract acne.

Then, there was the dermatologist I went to for really serious flare-up’s.  He shot me with weekly doses of radiation, another treatment that is not only frowned upon today; it’d be cause for a malpractice suit.  As an Irish/English woman of fair complexion, I was no candidate for that. Now, my face is permanently reddened (like roseola), and often, the area around my eyes appears raccoon-ish white in stark contrast to the rest, since I wore goggles during treatments. Then, too, because of that radiation, I am heightened risk of thyroid cancer.

But all this terrible experience merely made me a better patient and one who questions anything a doctor proposes, and that is really my message.

That’s why, many years ago, when a teen daughter considered Accutane for what I regarded ‘slight’ acne, I strongly discouraged her, saying “Why would you want to risk taking a drug that sounds like a gasoline by-product (octane)?”

To me, it wasn’t an option.

History proved me right, for Accutane would be one of the medications frowned upon, in later years, for its side-effects.  The cure was apparently far worse than the problem.

That’s my 66-year-old message to any of you out there. When a doctor prescribes, do your homework and check on all side-effects of any course of treatment… medication…procedure.  If he or she doesn’t explain consequences, ask, as in “What could be the negatives for me if I follow that course of treatment?”

Never blindly acquiesce.

Today, we all have a powerful tool in the internet that allows us instantaneous information on the drugs and courses of treatment we might entertain, and that’s healthy. All that data may just confirm your belief that you’re not a candidate for what a professional suggests, after all.

On the other hand, too, once you find that terrific doctor and you combine his or her professional counsel with your own research, you’ve got a winnable formula for success. 

PS…Here’s the story about my own Top Doc dermatologist in RI , as well as focus on my primary care physician. How’d I get her (it wasn’t easy.)

Be your own health advocate–always.  Now, got your own story of when a drug turned bad?  Share below at Comments…



About admin

A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog,, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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