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February 14, 2020

What is MOHS Surgery?

Since it’s National Cancer Prevention Month, we’re exploring one of our go-to methods for treatment: Mohs surgery. Originally developed in the 1930’s by its founder and originator, Dr. Frederic E. Mohs, MOHS Micrographic Surgery is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure typically performed by board-certified dermatologists like the ones at West Dermatology.

The treatment has been so successful, the Skin Cancer Foundation calls it “the gold standard for treating many basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs).” Mohs surgery has a 99% cure rate when performed on someone who has not had cancer before, so we perform it often—and that means we get a lot of patient questions. Below, check out our answers to some of the most commonly asked ones.

How long does Mohs surgery take?
The surgery usually takes less than four hours but can sometimes take longer. When making your appointment, set aside a full day, just in case.

What will my dermatologist do to my skin?
Before making the first incision, local anesthetic is injected to numb the area completely. Then, your dermatologist will cut away the visible cancer with a narrow amount of surrounding tissue. After the sample is processed in the laboratory, they will examine the cutting under a microscope to determine whether there are additional cancer cells in the body that need to be removed. This method minimizes the amount of tissue extraction, leading to reduced surgery time and a smaller scar.

Will it hurt?
The local anesthetic makes the procedure fairly painless, but the healing process may take time, depending on the depth and location of the surgery. 

How will I know whether it worked?
Your practitioner will know the results while you are still in the office and be able to share them with you.

What are the potential complications?
Mohs micrographic surgery is well-tolerated. While most patients do not experience many side effects, some potential issues that may occur include: Mild discomfort, possible infection, bleeding during or after surgery, scar formation, allergic reaction, and in rare cases, nerve damage.

Mohs surgery is very safe and effective, and we’re proud to have some of the most world-renowned Mohs surgeons on our team to help fight cancer. If you have any questions that weren’t answered above, just give us a call and we’ll be happy to talk.