Skip to main content

Mohs Surgery: What you need to know.

In the United States over 5 million people each year are treated for the two most common skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). 

And over 80 percent of BCC and SCC skin cancers occur on the head and neck, the areas of the skin that receive the most sun exposure. Treating skin cancer in those areas can be challenging both because there is little tissue underneath the skin and there may be cosmetic implications of surgery. Dermatologists often refer these cases to a specialist for Mohs surgery.

The mere words “cancer” and “surgery” are enough to alarm anyone, so if your dermatologist has recommended Mohs surgery for your skin cancer treatment, let's learn more about the procedure to put your mind to rest.

What is Mohs surgery?

Mohs surgery (also called micrographic surgery) is a highly effective and specialized procedure that removes BCCs and SCCs in stages to ensure ALL the cancer cells have been excised while leaving as much healthy skin and tissue as possible. 

It has an incredible cure rate :

Who performs the surgery?

The procedure will be performed by a doctor who has received extensive training in the Mohs surgery technique, pathology, and reconstructive surgery.

What happens during the procedure?

In most cases, the procedure will be performed as an outpatient procedure in a medical office and will last just a few hours, but you should clear your schedule for the entire day of the procedure.

The Mohs surgery will be performed under local anesthesia, so you will remain awake during the procedure.

Here’s how the process works.

You’ll receive an injection of anesthetic in the area to be operated on. Once you’re completely numb, the visible portion of the tumor will be removed.

Next, a layer of tissue with a narrow margin around the tumor will be surgically removed. Your wound will receive a temporary bandage while the doctor views the tissue.

In the lab, the tissue will be cut into sections, color coded with dye, and a map will be drawn of the surgical site. The tissue will be frozen, cut, and stained for examination. 

The surgeon will examine the tissue with a microscope to see if there is any remaining cancer. If cancer cells are present, the surgeon will mark them on the site map and return to remove another layer of skin. This process is repeated until the surgeon finds no further evidence of cancer.

Once the surgery is complete, the wound may be closed with stitches or left open to heal on its own. That depends on its size and location. 

Advantages of Mohs Surgery

According to the American College of Mohs Surgery, advantages of Mohs surgery include:

Another major benefit of Mohs surgery is that you know all of the skin cancer has been removed before you leave the doctor’s office.

You may need a follow-up appointment with your surgeon or dermatologist to make sure your wound is healing well. 

The Importance of Follow Up and Preventive Care

If you’ve been diagnosed with BCC or SCC there is an chance you will develop more skin cancers. 

The good news is that when skin cancer is detected early, it is highly curable, so make sure to schedule regular skin exams with your dermatologist and maintain good sun protection habits by using sunscreen daily, wearing protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses, and avoiding the sun during the hottest part of the day.

If you have questions about Mohs surgery or need to schedule a skin cancer screening call Integrated Dermatology of Tidewater at 757-461-1033 Opt. 1.

Integrated Dermatology of Tidewater Integrated Dermatology of Tidewater Integrated Dermatology of Tidewater, located in Norfolk, Virginia, provides comprehensive personalized dermatologic care to patients of all skin types, conditions, and ages. Medical director Jonathan Schreiber, MD, PhD and the entire professional medical team at Integrated Dermatology of Tidewater approach dermatologic exams from the medical root of an issue, and similarly, cosmetic issues from the science of a treatment, using science-based support and results with the treatment services offered to patients.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Know the UV Index, Know Your Risk

You've likely heard of The UV Index ... maybe on your favorite weather app or on the nightly news ... but do you really understand it? It's a valuable tool that helps you understand the risks associated with sun exposure in your area at a given time.

How to Supercharge Your Kids’ Sun Protection

Kids have delicate skin that needs extra TLC under the sun! So here are SEVEN tips and tricks to protect them while they're out conquering the world, one piece of playground equipment at a time!

Common Skin Cancers and How to Recognize Them

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., with 9,500 people diagnosed with skin cancer every day. One key step in prevention is knowing how to identify the different types of skin cancer. Here are the three most common types ...

7 Skin Cancer Myths ... BUSTED!

There are many myths about skin cancer that can be dangerous and even deadly. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common myths about skin cancer and provide accurate information to help you make informed decisions about your skin health.