Mohs Surgery for Skin Cancer

What is Mohs Surgery?

Mohs, or Mohs surgery, is a surgical technique used to treat skin cancer through the removal of skin lesions and growths. In Mohs surgery, your doctor slowly and precisely removes cancer containing skins layer by layer. Layers are progressively removed until only cancer-free skin tissue remains. Mohs surgery is sometimes known referred to as Mohs micrographic surgery. Recovery from Mohs surgery is relatively easy for most patients, though it is recommended that you avoid heavy lifting and exertion for a time.

Conditions Treated by Mohs

Mohs surgery is commonly used to treat certain forms of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Mohs is especially useful for skin cancers that have a high risk of recurrence. It is also a good treatment for skin cancers located in delicate or difficult areas such as the nose, lips and ears. As it can remove the cancerous cells without damaging uninvolved tissue, Mohs is also a good choice for addressing any hand or feet lesions since it can minimize scarring on these delicate areas.

Risks of Mohs Surgery

As with any medical procedure or surgery, Mohs surgery does come with some associated risks. These include pain, tenderness and temporary bleeding where the doctor has removed tissue.

More serious risks are rare but can include keloid scarring or temporary numbness or weakness in the treated area. In some cases, this numbness can be permanent. Since your doctor will perform Mohs surgery with local anesthesia, this eliminates the risks often associated with general anesthesia.

How to Prepare for Mohs Surgery

In preparation for your Mohs surgery, consult with your doctor about any allergies you may have, as well as any supplements or medications you may be taking. Dress comfortably for the procedure as it can last several hours. Finally, ask your doctor if you should refrain from consuming alcohol or smoking before the procedure. If the surgery will be near the eyes or mouth, make sure that any contact lenses, glasses or dentures are removed prior to the procedure.

What to Expect During Mohs Surgery

Any anxieties you may have about a procedure can be ameliorated by knowing more about what the surgery entails. How long does Mohs surgery take? Mohs surgery, on average, takes less than four hours, but some procedures can take longer. Since local anesthetic is used, it is also a painless procedure.

How is the Mohs Surgery Performed?

In Mohs surgery, your doctor uses a scalpel to remove then layers of skin from the affected area one by one until only unaffected skin remains. Each layer of skin is tested for cancerous cells, which can be the part of the procedure that takes the most time.

What is Recovery Like After Mohs Surgery?

Once your surgeon has removed all the cancerous layers of skin, they will decide how to treat the wound left by the procedure. This may involve leaving the wound to heal on its own, closing the wound with stitches or using an adjacent skin flap to cover the wound.

Very large areas may require reconstructive surgery. It is important, too, to know how to care for the wound after Mohs surgery. If there is any swelling in the affected area, you can ice it for 20 minutes at a time. If there is any bleeding, apply pressure and call your dermatologist if the bleeding does not stop. Mohs surgery recovery time can vary from four to six weeks.

During your Mohs surgery recovery, you should avoid any overexertion or vigorous exercise for at least seven days.

Common Places Dermatologists Perform Mohs Surgery

Mohs surgery is most often performed in what is known as the “H” area of the body. The H regions of the body include:

  • The central face
  • The eyelids
  • The eyebrows
  • the nose
  • The lips
  • The chin
  • The ears
  • Genitalia
  • Hands and feet
  • Ankles
  • Nipples
  • Nail units

Mohs surgery can also involve other areas of the body from which the surgeon may have to harvest skin to cover the incision.

Can Skin Cancer Come Back After Mohs Surgery?

Mohs surgery is one of the most effective interventions for treating skin cancer. It has a success rate of more than 99%with new skin cancers and 95% with recurring skin cancers. Skin cancer, however, can return after Mohs surgery in some cases. As such, it is a good idea to have regular follow-ups with your dermatologist twice a year after Mohs surgery to watch for any recurrence of cancer.

Related Conditions

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most diagnosed form of skin cancer, with millions of cases each year in the U.S. It appears on the skin in a variety of sizes and shapes, such as dome-shaped growth with visible blood vessels, shiny patches, brown/black growths, sores, or white/yellow scar-like growths.  Learn More

Melanoma Treatment

Melanoma is the most serious kind of skin cancer. Melanin is created by cells called melanocytes and gives your skin its particular color. Learn More

Skin Cancer Treatment

There are many types of skin cancer but the most common are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Learn More

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most commonly diagnosed form of skin cancer. Learn More

Other Treatments

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