First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, 71, had Mohs surgery this week, a specialized surgical technique to remove skin cancer for a basal cell carcinoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer in the United States. Dr. Biden is now just one of the estimated 3.6 million cases of basal cell carcinomas that are diagnosed in the United States every year. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.
Breakdown of Dr. Jill Biden’s Mohs Surgery Procedures
The White House physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, released a memo with a breakdown of the procedures Dr. Biden had at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
The first spot was a basal cell carcinoma above her right eye that was removed with clear margins with Mohs surgery. She also had a basal cell carcinoma on her left chest treated with Mohs surgery. The First Lady also had a lesion removed from her left eyelid– details about exactly what kind of lesion this is were not disclosed by the White House, but the sample of skin removed will be sent for evaluation by a pathologist who specializes in skin pathology.
“As anticipated, the First Lady is experiencing some facial swelling and bruising but is in good spirits and feeling well,” O’Connor said in his report.
Results of Mohs Surgery Treatment for First Lady
What we learned about her skin cancer is the best news possible for the First Lady, as far as skin cancer goes.
Mohs surgery has a 99% cure rate for skin cancer. Mohs surgery also allows for the smallest surgical defect possible, and therefore the best cosmetic outcome.
Basal cell is the most common, and least invasive form of skin cancer. Fortunately, if you catch and treat a basal cell carcinoma early, it can be viewed more like a nuisance rather than a serious illness.
But as the White House memo alludes- basal cell carcinoma is not something to ignore. Left untreated basal cell carcinomas can become locally aggressive, but fortunately, they have an extremely low metastatic rate (0.003-0.1% of basal cell carcinomas metastasize- and that is only if left untreated!)
Now that the First Lady has had at least 1 basal cell carcinoma, Dr. Biden is at risk for developing another basal cell carcinoma. The statistic Mohs surgeons often quote is that patients with a history of basal cell carcinoma, on average, have a 44% chance of developing another basal cell carcinoma within 3 years.
The advice Dr. Biden will likely now hear is that she should be screened for skin cancer about every 6 months instead of every year.