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Dermatologic Surgery

If you have recently been diagnosed with skin cancer, you are not alone. Over one million people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the U.S. each year, making it the most common type of cancer. Fortunately, it is also one of the most treatable forms of cancer.

Some skin cancers are readily treated with topical creams, cryotherapy (freezing), electrodesiccation and curettage (burning and scraping), or simple excision.

Mohs surgery was developed by Dr. Frederic Mohs in the 1930’s. During this procedure, the visible skin cancer is removed and processed in the Mohs laboratory, examining all of the edges of the specimen under a microscope. If any skin cancer remains, the area of remaining cancer is re-excised and, again, examined under a microscope. This process is repeated until the entire skin cancer, including any roots, is completely removed (see diagram). Once the tumor has been proven to be completely removed, most wounds are then repaired and sutured.

The Mohs technique offers several advantages over other treatments:

  • provides the highest cure rate of any treatments for skin cancer-up to 99 percent
  • minimizes the removal of normal skin tissue allowing for potentially smaller scars
  • performed under local anesthesia as an office based procedure

Indications for Mohs Surgery:

  • located on cosmetically or functionally critical areas (especially on the face)
  • recurrent after failing previous treatment
  • clinically ill-defined or infiltrating
  • aggressive, large, or rapidly growing

Procedure Diagram

Step 1

Skin cancers often extend beyond their visible borders. It is these extensions that cause the tumors to recur if not completely removed.

Step 2

Like other surgical procedures, Mohs surgery first removes the visible tumor.

Step 3

A thin layer of normal tissue is removed, mapped and evaluated by the surgeon with a microscope.

Step 4

Additional layers may then be taken precisely in the areas of remaining cancer until the tumor is completely removed.

Mohs surgery is the only method that ensures all of the tumor is removed while preserving the maximum amount of healthy tissue and therefore minimizing scars and cancer recurrence.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of Mohs surgery?
Mohs surgery offers the highest cure rate for nonmelanoma skin cancers, usually greater than 95%. This is due to the more careful evaluation of the tissues. Additionally, less healthy tissue is removed during Mohs surgery than during a routine excision, allowing for potentially smaller scars. This offers an added advantage for removing tissue in delicate areas of the nose, eyelid, ears and lips. In addition, Mohs surgery is offered in an office setting with local anesthesia for added safety and cost effectiveness.
Who are candidates for Mohs surgery?
If Mohs surgery has the best cure rate for nonmelanoma skin cancer, why aren’t all skin cancers removed with Mohs surgery?
What should I expect and how can I prepare for the day of my surgery?
Is there a consultation?