If you have a personal or family history of skin cancer, there’s a very good chance you’ve heard of Mohs Surgery. But what exactly is it and why is it used to treat skin cancer?
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, Mohs surgery is considered the most effective technique for treating many types of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which are the two most common types of skin cancer. Mohs allows you to keep as much healthy skin as possible, because the surgeon only removes the cancerous cells. This typically leads to more favorable cosmetic outcomes.
Why is it so effective?
Mohs surgery is so effective because the procedure entails removing one thin layer of tissue at a time. As each layer is removed, its margins are studied under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells. If the margins are cancer-free, then the removal part of the surgery is complete. If not, more tissue is removed from the margin where the cancer cells were found, and the procedure is repeated until all of the margins of the final tissue sample examined are clear of cancer. In this way, Mohs surgery eliminates the guesswork in skin cancer removal, producing the best therapeutic and cosmetic results.
This tissue-sparing procedure has an unparalleled cure rate for BCC and SCC of 98 percent or higher. Mohs differs from other techniques in that microscopic examination of all excised skin occurs during rather than after the surgery, thereby eliminating the need to “estimate” how far out or deep the roots of the skin cancer go. This allows the Mohs surgeon to remove all of the cancer cells without cutting healthy skin around the cancer.
How long does Mohs surgery take to perform?
Since the procedure is done in stages, there is no way to predict how long the procedure will take. The length of time depends on how far the skin cancer extends beyond the obvious lesion. It takes longer to perform than a regular surgical removal, as the patient must wait for the tissue to process and for the doctor to evaluate the margins under the microscope. On average, Mohs surgery lasts anywhere from two to five hours, but varies patient to patient.
Where does the procedure take place and what happens post surgery?
Mohs surgery is typically done in an office setting. The patient is fully awake during the surgery, but is quite comfortable, as the area being treated is completely numb with local anesthesia. You may want to bring something to eat and a book to read, keeping in mind that the amount of time you are in the office is unpredictable, as it depends on the extent of your skin cancer.
Once your skin cancer is removed, your surgeon will determine which plan will result in the best cosmetic outcome, either by placing stitches, letting the area heal on its own, or perhaps by sending you to a plastic surgeon.
If you have skin cancer concerns, or believe you’re a candidate for Mohs surgery, our team of board certified dermatologists and skin care experts are here to help. We have a board certified Facial Plastic surgeon on site to provide a team approach to the best cosmetic outcome possible. We’d love to provide you with five-star, life-saving care, so please reach out to schedule an appointment today!