How Mohs Surgery Is Performed

Mohs surgery is a microscopic surgery performed on skin cancer patients for the removal of any cancerous cells. Mohs surgery is between 95 percent and 99 percent effective in removing all of the cancerous cells.

The Preoperative Visit

If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, you will want to schedule a preoperative visit with a dermatologist to discuss your options for removing the cancer. At your first visit, the doctor will thoroughly examine the cancerous lesion or lesions. A biopsy may be performed if you have not already had one. A biopsy will determine which type of cancer it is--squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma. The surgery may be performed to remove both types. Your doctor should discuss any concerns you may have and explain the what will happen during the surgery. Then your surgery date and time will be scheduled.

The Surgery

On the day of your surgery, you be given anesthesia so you will need to have someone to drive you home. Once the anesthesia has been administered, the area will be properly cleansed before the actual procedure will begin. To begin, your doctor will begin scraping the lesion or cut it out with a sharp knife. Then the excised tumor will be cut into small pieces and placed on a slide for examination under a microscope. Before the excised portion is examined, the doctor will draw a map of how the tumor was cut out of the skin. This will determine if there are more cancer cells and where they are at. It helps the doctor to determine where the next cells need to be removed. This process is repeated until all of the slides are determined to be clean of cancer. This process may need to be repeated 2 or 3 times. Once all of the cancer is removed, the excised area is cleaned, and if necessary, stitches are used to close the wound.

After everything is over with, you will be sent to a recovery room to allow the anesthesia wear off a little bit. Then you will be given postoperative instructions on how to clean the wound and any follow up appointments, if necessary. You will be released to go home finish the recovery.

The total time of the procedure will vary depending on the size of the cancerous cells. It usually takes around 15 to 20 minutes for the area to be excised and mapped, and the preparation and examination of the slide takes around an hour. Therefore, the total time of the procedure will vary on how many times the area will need to be excised. In more severe cases, the surgery will need to be repeated.


You will be able to return to normal everyday activities within a couple of days. Strenuous exercise should be avoided for a week or two. The pain is usually mild, and you may use Tylenol to relieve any discomfort.

If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, talk to your doctor to see if Mohs surgery is right for you.

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