Mohs surgery is a procedure that can successfully treat and cure various forms of skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma.
Named for Dr. Frederic Mohs, a general surgeon who developed the technique in the 1930s, Mohs surgery is used to diagnose and treat certain types of skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Mohs surgery lets you keep as much healthy skin as possible — the surgeon only removes skin with cancer cells. Better yet, most Mohs procedures are successful in completely curing your cancer.
Keep reading to learn more about Mohs surgery, including what to expect from the procedure and recovery.
The goal of Mohs surgery is to completely remove all cancerous tissue and to acquire diagnostic information from the tissue being removed.
During a Mohs procedure, a doctor will remove areas of skin tissue that are believed to be cancerous and examine it immediately under a microscope. This method lets the doctor continue removing and examining suspected tissue until all the cancerous areas have been removed.
The gallery below provides before and after pictures of Mohs surgery for basal cell carcinoma.
Mohs surgery is usually an outpatient procedure that can be done while you’re awake. The area believed to be cancerous is numbed with a small amount of injected local anesthesia.
Next, the suspected tumor and a small area of tissue surrounding the area are removed. The tissue is taken immediately to a nearby laboratory for analysis, and the surgeon examines the tissues under slides.
Additional tissue may be removed until the surgeon is satisfied that the remaining tissue around the tumor site is free of cancer cells. It can take one or many tissue removals and analyses for your surgeon to feel confident that all cancerous tissue has been removed.
While most Mohs surgeries are done in just a few hours, it’s safest to plan for your procedure to take up your entire day.
Mohs surgery is typically accomplished within a single day. You should be able to go home right after the procedure. Recovery can take a bit longer, though, depending on how much tissue was removed and how quickly you heal.
Only very thin layers of skin and tissue are removed at a time during Mohs surgery, but multiple layers removed could add up to a sizeable wound.
For smaller surgical wounds, your surgeon may be able to leave the area open to heal on its own in time. Wounds that are slightly larger may require stitches.
In some cases, the wounds left after Mohs surgery are large enough that they require some form of reconstructive surgery. When needed, reconstruction may happen anywhere from the day after your Mohs surgery to a month later.
Keep in mind: the ultimate goal is to completely remove all cancerous tissue. Reconstruction and full healing can take up to a year after the procedure.
Mohs surgery is successful and favored by surgeons and dermatologists because it’s both minimally invasive and highly effective.
The high cure rates with this procedure have led to it becoming a part of training for every dermatology residency program in the United States.
Mohs surgery: A good choice for basal cell carcinoma
Mohs surgery has high cure rates for many forms of skin cancer. For basal cell carcinoma, the cure rate is around 99%.
Mohs surgery is an outpatient procedure that’s usually done in the span of a single day. Although very thin layers of tissue are removed during this surgery, the goal is to completely remove all cancerous areas, so the depth of the surgical wound can vary.
Most people who have Mohs surgery are completely cured of cancer, and they heal from their surgical incision naturally or with stitches. Larger scale reconstruction is rarely needed.