NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The First Lady Jill Biden’s recent diagnosis of basal cell skin cancer on her face and chest has brought attention to the disease.
The first lady was treated at Walter Reed Medical Center with a procedure called Moh’s surgery to remove the areas with cancer.
Yale Medicine Dr. David Leffell, an internationally known dermatologic surgeon explained that basal cell cancer grows slowly which often leads to issues for people to get a cancer diagnosis.
“People have a spot, it heals up just in time for them to go to a dermatologist and they decide well it’s gone I’m not going to go,” Dr. Leffell said.
He explains that the procedure is a very precise, done in the office with local anesthetics. The surgeon removes the skin cancer and takes it to an on site laboratory.
“You can remove the skin cancer by removing as little tissue as possible and this is important because the majority of skin cancers are on the face and you want to cause as little damage as possible with the highest cure rate,” Dr. Leffell said. He has performed thousands of Moh’s surgeries as the founder of the Dermatologic Surgery Program at Yale Medicine in 1988.
“The tissue is mapped using different color inks so that when it’s processed in the special Moh’s way you actually have a way of identifying whether there’s any skin cancer say at 12 o’clock or 6 o’clock or any particular location including at the base,” Dr. Leffell said.
If needed, the surgeon goes back and removes another small piece from the patient, rather than taking one large chunk of skin at once. He said the nose is the most common spot for skin cancer spots.
Dr. Leffell said the number of skin cancer cases has increased over the years despite the public education over wearing sunscreen and the availability of sun protective clothing.
Dr. Leffel said he is seeing younger generations pay closer attention to sun protection.
“More and more younger people in that age cohort and younger are being much more serious about sun protection,” Dr. Leffell said.