A positive step forward to treating skin cancer in central Alberta

By Sheldon Spackman
December 7, 2017 - 2:53pm

Skin cancer patients in central Alberta now have surgical options in Red Deer.

Instead of travelling to Edmonton or Calgary for skin cancer surgery, Dr. Isaiah Day for the past few weeks has been offering the Mohs Micro-Graphic surgery at Innovation Dermatology in Red Deer.

He says it’s a procedure that improves the rate of cure for patients who have common forms of skin cancer like basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinoma.

“It’s a procedure to remove the tumour and check to make sure it’s been all removed before a repair is performed,” explains Day. “Previously, the way we would do it is we would excise the cancer and it would be sent to a lab. The lab would process it and about a week or two later, you would get a report that would say ‘you’ve got it all’ or ‘you still have residual tumour.' Now that process can be done in just a couple of hours.”

For example, Day says a patient would now have a spot removed, be bandaged up, wait for an hour or two and then when those results are available, go through those results and determine the next course of action.

“The nice thing about that for central Alberta is for a long time, patients have needed to travel to Edmonton and Calgary to have that done in centres there,” says Day. “Now we are able to do that in Red Deer which is just a wonderful improvement for patients.”

Day says he had been doing Mohs Micro-Graphic surgery in Edmonton since 2015, but is now very pleased to offer that same service in Red Deer.

“This is done in a non-hospital surgical facility in Red Deer, although it’s a completely insured service,” says Day. “That also highlights one of the challenges with the Red Deer hospital right now. Being an extremely busy hospital and having very little room, we had to apply to provide this service through an application of creating a non-hospital surgical facility to do it.”

Day says the fact that they’re so busy demonstrates the strong need for this service in Red Deer.

“It stems from a few different things,” continues Day. “Number one, there are a lot of patients who work outdoors, whether that’s in the oilfield or whether that’s in farming and agriculture who have a lot of sun exposure and develop these skin cancers, as well as people who travel a lot or use different forms of tanning beds etcetera.”

From a practical perspective, Day is also encouraged by the increased training available for surgeons to do Mohs Micro-Graphic surgery.

“I trained at St. John’s Institute of Dermatology in London, England and what’s nice is that the surgery can be performed by a physician,” Day says. “The slides can be read by that same physician and then the repair is also done that same day, whereas before, it used to be a procedure where one physician would be involved with clearing the tumour, it would be bandaged and someone else would do the repair.”

Day describes this new set-up at Innovation Dermatology as more of a one-stop shop for patients where they’re able to not only get the tumour removed, but check that it has been removed and do the repair at the same time.      

“The procedure itself is really valuable for patients who have skin cancers of the face or at tissue-sparing sites like the tip of the finger,” Day points out. “Not only does it spare tissue, but it minimizes the scar size and keeps the repair of the skin cancer as small as possible while still giving you the highest cure rate.” 

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