Mohs Surgery: What to Expect

Mohs surgery is known for its unique treatment of skin cancer, and it retains one of the highest cure rates of all skin cancer surgeries (with success rates ranging from 94% to 98%). The procedure was developed by a surgeon named Frederic E. Mohs in 1938. Since the introduction of Mohs surgery, skin cancer cure rates have soared, and patients have felt more hopeful about living with skin cancer. Because the Mohs procedure is significantly different from other standard skin cancer surgeries, here are some things that you should know about the procedure:

Mohs Surgery Process

Whereas most skin cancer surgeries are based around removing the cancerous skin lesion and hoping that the cancer has not spread, Mohs surgery is systematically based on ensuring complete removal of the cancer and its roots. During Mohs surgery, the first layer of the tumor is removed from the skin, frozen and then microscopically examined to determine whether or not the tissue is cancerous in nature, all while the patient is still present in the operating room.

If the tissue is determined to be cancerous, then another layer below the lesion is removed and again examined for traces of skin cancer. This process is repeated over and over until no more trace of cancer remains at the original site.

Types of Skin Cancer Treated

Because of how the Mohs surgery process is done, there are several different types of skin cancer that can be successfully treated by it. That is not to say that Mohs surgery is the best or only option for treating every type of skin cancer, as there are certain risk factors and variants that could make a different surgical procedure a better treatment plan for different situations. However, it is important to know that Mohs surgery generally comes with a very high cure rate and can be used on many different types of skin cancer, including:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Sebaceous gland carcinoma
  • Leiomyosarcoma
  • Malignant melanoma
  • Laryngeal carcinoma

Risks and Complications

Of course there are always risks and complications that can be associated with any type of surgery, but the important thing to know about Mohs surgery is that these factors are all extremely low. In fact, along with its high cure rate, Mohs is also cosmetically preferred because it tends to leave a much smaller scar than other types of operations.

One of the most beneficial factors of Mohs surgery is that patients who undergo the procedure can feel relief that they will not have to be “put to sleep” with general anesthesia, but rather local anesthesia is usually significant to complete the entire process, depending upon the location of the cancer. In addition, the use of local anesthesia makes the procedure appear much less invasive to a worried patient.

One of the larger risk factors is probably the recurrence of cancer in Mohs patients. With any given surgery, there is the likelihood for recurrence, and Mohs surgery is no exception. However, most cure rates on first-time Mohs surgery are about 98%, and rates on recurrent carcinomas are about 94%. So, overall, Mohs still has the potential to reduce recurrence and cure recurrence when it does arise.

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