Essential Information Regarding Mohs Surgery For Skin Cancer

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Article at a Glance

  • Mohs surgery boasts a 99 percent success rate for untreated skin cancers. 
  • This procedure significantly reduces recovery time, helps patients return to their lives, and offers numerous other advantages. 

Any type of cancer diagnosis is a frightening revelation, and skin cancer is no different. However, as one of the most common types of cancer, it has numerous effective treatment options. 

Mohs micrographic surgery is among those treatments and has an impressive success rate with little downtime. Should you consider this skin cancer removal procedure following your diagnosis? Dr. James Wang dives deep into the details below. 

What Is Mohs Surgery?

In the 1930s, Dr. Frederic E. Mohs created a surgical technique to remove skin cancer from the top layers of the epidermis. This technique involved slicing an area of cancerous skin off of the patient’s body. It allows the surgeon to protect and retain as much healthy skin as possible. 

Modern surgeons still widely use this procedure, invented nearly a century ago, as a preferred surgical treatment for skin cancer. Once they identify a cluster of cancerous skin cells, they sanitize the area and cut deep enough into the skin to remove any cancerous growths without touching healthy surrounding skin. 

Where on the Body Does This Procedure Occur?

Your surgeon can use Mohs surgery on almost any part of the body in need of melanoma or basal cell carcinoma removal. However, most procedures occur in areas that might remain exposed, such as the face, legs, hands, and neck. For example, you might discover a potentially cancerous growth on your arm or chest. 

After consulting with a specialist, you’ll receive your diagnosis. If the cancerous spot is in a highly visible area, your surgeon will recommend Mohs surgery to minimize scar tissue, protect healthy cells nearby, and eliminate the growth. The skin lesion excision should heal quickly with no complications, allowing you to return to your life quickly. 

This procedure comes with other benefits, including:

  • Localized anesthesia: General anesthetics can significantly complicate the surgical and recovery experience. Using a local anesthetic keeps the effects in one area, significantly limiting the potential risks. 
  • On-site lab and procedural work: Mohs surgery is an outpatient procedure. You don’t have to travel to an operating room or other facility for lab work or skin cancer removal. 
  • Over 90 percent success rate for all patients: Patients who have never undergone skin cancer treatment experience a 99 percent recovery and success rate. Patients who experienced previous skin cancer treatments have a success rate of 94 percent. 

The above advantages make this type of melanoma surgery effective, safe, and fast for people of various backgrounds. 

What to Expect From Skin Cancer Removal Through Mohs Surgery

Mohs surgery still requires some preparation and understanding despite its minimally invasive nature. Like undergoing any other procedure, you can reduce your recovery time and limit the chances your skin cancer returns by following your surgeon’s pointers. Find out what to expect and how to handle the surgery below. 

Procedure Preparation

While Mohs surgery isn’t a highly invasive procedure, it still requires that the patient treat themselves with care before their procedure appointment. Your surgeon would likely direct you to:

  • Avoid smoking, drinking, and other indulgent behaviors. Ingesting substances like alcohol and tobacco can make your blood thinner, increasing your risk of constant bleeding. Plus, they might also react to prescriptions like pain medications or antibiotics. 
  • Stop taking over-the-counter medications or supplements. Some supplements and retail medications might interfere with the anesthesia or prescriptions. They can also encourage blood flow, which enhances your risk of excessive bleeding without clotting. 
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Foods and beverages high in sugar, caffeine, and similar constituents can cause inflammation, unhindered blood flow, and other complications. Maintain a healthy, nourishing diet to promote healing while avoiding the ingredients outlined by your doctor. 
  • Pick up your prescription medications before the procedure appointment. The last thing you want to do following any surgical procedure is stop by the pharmacy. Grab your pain relievers and antibiotics before your surgical date. 

Undergoing the Procedure

While this squamous cell carcinoma surgery is a simple, less-invasive procedure, it can still take a few hours to complete. Block out the entire day on your calendar to ensure you have plenty of time for your appointment. Before the procedure, your surgeon will inject local anesthesia into the surgical site. 

Once the anesthesia numbs the area, your surgeon will carefully remove a thin layer of cancerous skin. Then, they will examine the sample under a microscope while you wait. If the cells run deeper, they will call you back for more excisions. Many patients undergo two to four removals during their appointment. 

Your surgeon’s approach to closing the wound depends on how deep they had to cut to remove the cancerous cells. For example, removing only one or two layers of skin typically means the excision can heal on its own. However, deeper removals often require stitches or bandages to protect the wound while it regrows a protective layer of healthy skin cells. 

The Recovery Experience

After leaving the doctor’s office, follow any instructions from your surgeon. These directions ensure you feel very little discomfort while protecting the exposed wound. For example, you might need a specific wound rinse to keep the area clean. Use it as recommended. 

Inspect the site and wear sunscreen when it fully heals. The fresh, new skin is sensitive. Plus, the cancer could return and require additional surgery if you don’t take extra precautions to protect it. 

Does Mohs Surgery Come with Risks?

Although Mohs surgery is minimally invasive, it does come with a few risks. Like any surgical procedure, it can cause the following complications:

  • Pain, bruising, and swelling around the surgical site
  • Infections
  • Persistent bleeding or blood clots
  • Scarring
  • Weakness or tingling around the incision area

If you experience these concerns, discuss them with your surgeon. 

Contact Dr. James Wang About Skin Cancer Removal

Skin cancer removal is often quick, simple, and successful with Mohs surgery. Call 312-695-8182 to consult with Dr. James Wang about whether it could eliminate your cancerous skin concerns.

About The Author

Dr. James Wang - Facial Plastic Surgeon

By Dr. James Wang MD PhD

Dr. James C. Wang, MD and Ph.D., is the Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He graduated with Honors from the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Sciences Program at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.