About Mohs Surgery for Skin Cancer

Mohs surgery is a specific type of surgery for skin cancer that is performed by a team specially trained in this technique. At the time of your surgery, you will meet the entire team, including a physician, nurses, and surgical technicians.

This unique form of surgery was developed over 50 years ago by Dr. Frederick Mohs, a professor of surgery at the University of Wisconsin. Since that time the technique has been continually refined and advanced. Today, it is offered in most major medical centers throughout the country. It is widely accepted as the technique that offers the highest cure rate for many different types of skin cancer.

Mohs surgery is performed by a team specially trained in this technique. The team includes a physician, nurses, surgical technicians, technicians who are responsible for preparing the tissue for microscopic examination, and the office staff. You will meet the entire team at the time of your surgery.

If you have been scheduled for Mohs surgery, please review our Mohs Surgery Information Packet.

Mohs Surgery Technique

Except for rare circumstances, Mohs surgery is performed on an outpatient basis. Once in the procedure room, local anesthesia is used to numb all feeling in the area around the skin cancer.

After checking in at our front desk, you will be brought into one of our surgical suites. We will review your medical history, allergies, and medications. You will be asked to sign a consent form to allow us to perform the procedure. Your surgical site will be identified (usually with your help), and you will be asked to confirm that the site has been correctly identified.

Local anesthesia is then used to numb all feeling in the area around the skin cancer. Once the area is numb, as much of the skin cancer as possible is removed by scraping it with a special instrument. Then a thin layer of skin at the tumor site is removed. This layer is marked, frozen, and stained so that it may be examined under a microscope. The processing takes approximately one hour. Larger specimens will take even longer to process.

In the meantime, a pressure bandage will be placed over your surgical wound so that you can wait in comfort while we are examining the removed skin. During this time you may read your book, watch TV, or take a walk to the coffee shop downstairs. If you will be leaving our reception area, please leave your cell phone number (and make sure your cell phone has good reception) so that we may contact you when it is time to proceed with the procedure.

If skin cancer is found at the edges of the specimen, the surgeon will repeat the process of removing another layer of skin, preparing it for the microscope and examining it. These steps or “stages” will be repeated until all the skin cancer that can be detected under the microscope is removed.

Depending on the extent of the skin cancer, there may be several stages of surgery. Since we cannot determine ahead of time how many stages you will require, it is necessary to assume that you will spend the day with us. Rarely, it may take more than one day to remove your tumor.

Although this technique can be time consuming, the benefits of Mohs surgery includes:

  • Complete removal of the cancer during the procedure, virtually eliminating the chance the cancer could come back
  • The amount of healthy tissue that is removed is quite small
  • A better cosmetic outcome
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