What is Mohs Surgery, and When is it Recommended?

Mohs surgery is the gold standard for treating most skin cancers.

Mohs surgery, also called Mohs micrographic surgery, is a procedure that treats certain skin cancers, which is especially important when you consider that skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. Every year more skin cancers are diagnosed than all other cancers combined!

The majority of skin cancers are nonmelanoma cases. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, and squamous cell carcinoma is the second-most common. Mohs surgery is the top-of-the-line treatment for these common types of skin cancers, with an impressive 99% cure rate for newly diagnosed cancers and a 94% cure rate for recurring skin cancer.

Dermatologists can also use Mohs surgery to.treat some melanomas, a less common but more deadly form of skin cancer.

Prime benefits of Mohs surgery as a treatment for skin cancer are that it does not damage surrounding healthy tissue, and it leaves only a minimal scar. That makes it ideal for cancer growths on highly visible areas such as your nose, eyes, lips, ears, and scalp.

The advantage of Mohs surgery over standard excision surgery, where the doctor cuts away the lesion and some surrounding tissue, is that you leave the center with a clean bill of health. With excision surgery, the tissue is sent to a lab to examine whether it’s cancerous.

What can I expect during Mohs surgery?

Mohs surgery is done on an outpatient basis. The dermatologist removes one layer of skin at a time from the area with cancer and then examines each layer under a microscope in a nearby lab until a layer shows no cancer. The surrounding healthy skin is preserved.

After each layer is removed, you need to wait at the center while the skin is examined. The procedure can take anywhere from a few hours to a whole day. You can read, send and receive texts, and eat snacks while you wait.

The cancer is entirely removed during the procedure. If your skin requires stitches or other types of closure or repair, it can also be completed on the same day soon after Mohs surgery is finished.  

Am I a good candidate for Mohs surgery?

Mohs surgery is most commonly used for people with small and large basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. It’s also a consideration for people with some melanomas as well as for people with recurrent skin cancers.

Mohs surgery is ideal for people who want little to no sign of their cancer or treatment to remain, so it’s often when skin cancer is in highly visible areas such as the face and hands. Another benefit of Mohs surgery is that skin cancer is not likely to return.

For more information on Mohs surgery and other skin cancer treatments, call one of the SkinMD offices in Chicago, Orland Park, Skokie, and Evergreen Park, Illinois, or make an appointment online.

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