Mohs Surgery

Despite more public awareness about skin cancer and what causes it, an estimated two million people are diagnosed with some type of skin cancer each year in the United States. And according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one person dies every hour from melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. 

Despite those high numbers, it is also true that most skin cancers, the more common basal and squamous cell cancers, have a very high cure rate if diagnosed and treated early. In fact, the primary surgical procedure to remove skin cancer, Mohs surgery, is credited with curing 99 percent of initial cancers and 95 percent of recurrent cancers, including even some melanoma. 

In a nutshell, Mohs surgery, developed in 1930 by Dr. Frederic Mohs, is a form of micrographic surgery in which the surgeon removes tissue, maps it with a microscope and then determines where to cut next. The procedure is repeated until all traces of the cancer are removed, and the maximum amount of healthy tissue is preserved. 

Mohs surgery, however, usually results in scarring and deformities in aesthetic areas like the face and neck. So, reconstructive surgery is often needed. Sometimes, this is done by the Mohs surgeon – usually a specially trained dermatologist – and sometimes, by a separate Mohs plastic surgeon. 

One drawback with Mohs surgery is that the procedure is sometimes lengthy. It is usually done on an outpatient basis under local anesthetic, as the patient waits. The process of cutting and mapping can take an entire day, depending on how much cancer is found. This obviously requires a lot of patience on the part of the patient, and a great focus on the part of the Mohs surgeon.