Mohs Surgery: Procedure and Recovery

Mohs surgery is a widely used surgical technique for treating skin cancer in different parts of the body. It is performed by specially trained Mohs surgeons to eradicate cancer cells from the skin using state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment and surgical precision.

What Is Mohs Surgery?

Mohs surgery is a procedure typically performed to treat skin cancer. It involves cutting away thin layers of the affected skin. As each layer is extracted, the doctor closely inspects the skin cells for any signs of cancer cells. The doctor only stops when there aren’t any more cancer cells present.

The most important goal of Mohs surgery is to remove infected skin cells without damaging healthy skin cells. Patients that undergo Mohs surgery can be sure all the cancer cells have been completely extracted. Consequently, the need for further cancer treatments is most likely evaded.

How Is Mohs Surgery Performed?

The first step your Mohs surgeon will do is mark the margins of the infected area using a pen. This procedure does not require a general anesthetic, but the surgeon will numb the area with a local anesthetic for your comfort. The surgeon will then excise the affected tissue with a margin around and below the marked border.

The excised tissue is transferred to an on-sight lab where it is tested for cancer. This can take hours to complete, so the surgeon will place a bandage over the incision site and advise on keeping you occupied and comfortable. A second incision may be made only in the affected area. The process is repeated until the margins are clear of cancer cells.

At the time of your procedure, your surgeon will advise on the most effective surgical site closure, depending on the size of the surgical site. Some incisions are left to heal without stitches, while others are stitched. In some rare cases, the surgeon may need to use skin grafts of a flap.

Mohs Recovery

Mohs surgery recovery does not take long. In two weeks, most patients can return or ease into their daily routines. Some patients even feel well enough to return to work the day after the surgery. Patients do not need pain medication because the incisions are usually small. You may receive an appointment to get the stitches removed.

The toughest part of recovery is the tenderness around the incision site and the scarring, which can be bad the first few days as your skin creates new paths for your blood to flow. The good news is these minor challenges do not last long and can be managed with medication and rest. Always remember to keep the incision site clean and dry to promote healing.

If you experience any swelling, you can use an ice pack. For cleaning the wound, hydrogen peroxide is the perfect product.

Mohs Surgery FAQ

Who does a Mohs surgery?

A fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon is trained to perform Mohs surgery and obtain optimal results. Most of these surgeons start as dermatologists or oncologists. During the procedure, the specialist may get help from other medical professionals like nurses.

How long does Mohs surgery take?

The average Mohs surgery procedure can take several hours because the surgery examines the excised tissue during the surgery. However, the duration can change depending on the extent of the incision and the complexity of closing the incision site. The extent of the tumor to surrounding areas is the most significant determinant of how long the surgery will take.

What is the full name of Mohs?

The term Mohs is in honor of Dr. Frederic Mohs, a professor of surgery at the University of Wisconsin. He developed this surgical technique in the 1930s. Since then, the technique has been refined to stay on par with new technology and gadgets. Today, Mohs is more commonly referred to as Mohs micrographic surgery or Mohs surgery.

Does Mohs surgery leave scars?

Yes, Mohs surgery will leave a scar because it involves making an incision on the skin. Mohs surgery involves repair of the wound left behind, so scarring is minimal. The good news is scarring will often fade as time goes by.

What is the success rate for Mohs surgery?

Mohs success rates are quite high, in the 90th percentile. Most patients only require one surgery to completely get rid of tumors. Because of its high success rate, Mohs is also the most cost-effective way to treat this type of cancer.

When is Mohs surgery the best treatment option?

Some situations where Mohs surgery is the best option include in cases where:

  • Skin cancer recurs
  • Skin cancer has ill-defined margins
  • Skin cancer is fast growing
  • Skin cancer is on the face and other visible areas
  • Skin cancer in other delicate areas of the body, including the hands, genitals, feet, and eyes.

The Mohs technique avoids excessive loss of healthy skin, achieving the most cosmetically appealing results.