If you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer, there’s a chance your doctor will recommend Mohs surgery to remove it. But what is Mohs? How is it different from traditional excision? What can you expect during the surgery? We’re going to answer all of those questions today.
What is Mohs Surgery?
Also called Mohs micrographic surgery, Mohs surgery is an extremely precise surgical technique used to treat skin cancer. It has a 99% cure rate, making it the gold standard in skin cancer surgery.
During Mohs, your surgeon removes thin layers of skin and examines them under a microscope until he or she reaches a layer that is cancer-free. By carefully examining skin cells as they are removed, your surgeon is able to verify that all cancer cells are gone, increasing your chance of a cure and reducing the need for follow-up treatment.
How is Mohs surgery different from local excision?
During local excision, a growth is surgically removed along with a small margin of healthy tissue. Mohs surgery is considered an improvement on traditional excision, because rather than guessing how much additional tissue to take, your doctor can remove thin layers of tissue until it is verified that all unhealthy cells are gone.
What to expect during Mohs surgery
Most dermatologists perform Mohs surgery right in their office as an outpatient procedure. As you can imagine, the precise nature of Mohs surgery makes it more time consuming than local excision, so you should plan to make a day of it.
During the procedure, the treatment area will be cleansed and numbed. Your surgeon will begin by removing the visible portion of the cancer along with a thin extra layer. A temporary bandage will be placed over the wound, and the sample is taken to the onsite laboratory for analysis. Analyzing the tissue sample can take about an hour, but you’ll be able to use the restroom, have a snack, and read a magazine or book while you’re waiting.
If cancerous cells are found in the sample, the surgeon will return and remove another layer of tissue. Since the sample was precisely mapped, your doctor will know the exact location from which to remove additional tissue. This new sample will then be analyzed. The process will continue until no cancerous cells are found in the tissue sample. Additional local anesthetic can be administered as needed.
Once the surgery is complete, your dermatologist will talk to you about wound healing options. The wound may be allowed to heal on its own, stitches may be needed, or the doctor can use a skin flap or skin graft to cover the wound. For complex cases, you may be referred to a reconstructive surgeon.
What happens after Mohs surgery?
Follow your surgeon’s instructions after surgery. You’ll have a follow-up appointment to ensure your wound is healing well. Because you had verification that your cancer was removed during the procedure, you won’t need additional testing.
That said, people who have had skin cancer in the past are more likely to develop it in the future. Be sure to do skin self exams at home and keep up with regular skin examinations with your dermatologist. Because you have a history of skin cancer, your doctor will likely want to see you more often than the standard one visit per year.
Benefits of Mohs Surgery
While having Mohs surgery instead of traditional excision does require you to spend several hours at the doctor’s office, studies show that patients who have had it have a 95% satisfaction rate with their long-term results. Mohs surgery has a lot of advantages, including:
- Verification right away that the cancer is gone
- Works well for rare cancers and melanomas as well as more common skin cancers like basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas
- Beneficial for treating skin cancers that are large, aggressive, or have a high risk of recurrence
- Preserves as much healthy tissue as possible in sensitive areas such as the face, mouth, hands, feet and genitals
- An excellent option for tumors without well-defined borders
- Less scarring
- High cure rate
- Often costs less than excision because you only need one procedure
Mohs surgery at Arizona Dermatology
At Arizona Dermatology, our promise is to make you as comfortable as possible at all times. Our skilled, experienced physicians perform Mohs surgery regularly right in our offices with outstanding results. We’re here for anything you need during your procedure, even if it is just a friendly face to keep you company while you await your results. If you have questions about Mohs surgery, excision, skin cancer, or other skin-related concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us at one of our locations today!