What is Mohs Surgery?

Among the advances in skin cancer treatment, few procedures have achieved the success that Mohs surgery has attained. The medical profession has long employed surgical removal of cancerous areas, relying on estimation of the cancerous area’s margins and erring on the side of caution to ensure that all affected areas were removed. While Mohs surgery seems like a revolutionary new way of more accurately treating certain types of skin cancers, the procedure has been around for many years.


Mohs surgery is built on a specialized surgical procedure developed in the 1930s by Frederic E. Mohs, MD. Dr. Mohs’ technique was called chemosurgery. This formed the foundation of what would become widely known as Mohs micrographic surgery. The procedure began to receive widespread acceptance among dermatologists in the 1960s after Perry Robins, MD studied the technique with Dr. Mohs and helped to advance the techniques and the micrographic mapping procedure it is known for. Today, Mohs surgery is widely regarded by the medical community as the single most effective surgical technique for treating and eliminating several types of skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It is extremely effective in treating skin cancer conditions, and results in sparing the greatest amount of healthy tissue surrounding the affected areas.

How is Mohs Surgery Performed?

In this procedure, the surgeon carefully excises the cancerous tissue one thin layer at a time, followed by a detailed mapping and microscopic examination of the affected tissues and the margins surrounding them. The layer removal is continued until no cancerous tissues remain. This careful micrographic examination eliminates the guesswork involved in many other common cancer removal procedures, resulting in less healthy tissue loss while accurately targeting all of the cancerous cells in the affected area. This microscopic examination also improves the outcome of treatment, with success rates in excess of 99% for skin cancers that have never before received treatment, and up to 94% success in skin cancers that have recurred after other treatments.

What are the Benefits of Mohs Surgery?

There are many benefits of Mohs micrographic surgery over other skin cancer treatments and procedures. The first is that the surgery is conducted as a single-visit outpatient procedure. Other surgical methods may take more visits and must be handled on an inpatient basis. This makes the Mohs procedure very cost-effective and efficient for both patient and provider. Mohs surgery only requires locally-applied numbing agents, helping the patient get up and functioning in a much shorter time frame than would be required by full anesthesia. Once the procedure is completed, patients may experience some brief discomfort along with light swelling or bruising of the surgically-treated areas. These conditions tend to clear up within a few days.

Next, the procedure leaves the smallest scar possible while targeting all of the affected cells. Other surgical skin cancer procedures often require the surgeon to remove excess healthy tissue in an effort to get all of the cancerous cells. This can lead to unsightly scarring. By carefully examining the margins around the cancerous area, the Mohs surgical procedure is designed to minimize the effects on healthy surrounding tissues. This can help speed healing and is considered less invasive than several other surgical treatment protocols.

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