Mohs Surgery for Skin Cancer
Mohs Micrographic Surgery is a surgical procedure for the removal of skin cancer. Mohs surgery is most commonly used for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Mohs surgery is a very precise and effective method of removing the skin cancer lesion and any “roots” that may have extended beneath the surface.
Five-year cure rates are reported to be 99% for the initial treatment of skin cancer and 95% for recurring cases.
Mohs surgery removes the skin cancer while maintaining as much healthy skin as possible. This minimizes the size of the wound after the operation.
Mohs surgery involves the step-by-step removal of thin layers of tissue and the microscopic analysis of the tissue during the procedure. Tissue is removed from the surgical site until the last traces of skin cancer, as viewed under the microscope, have been eliminated.
The use of a microscope to examine thin slices of tissue during the procedure is what differentiates Mohs surgery from other skin cancer removal procedures.
Cancers that have recurred are often treated with Mohs surgery because the precision of this procedure is ideal for the elimination of cancers in cosmetically and functionally critical areas such as on the head, neck, hands, and feet. (About 90% of Mohs surgery procedures are performed on the face.)
Advantages of Mohs Surgery
In addition to its high cure rate, Mohs surgery provides several other advantages for people with skin cancer:
- Compared to traditional surgery, the precision of Mohs surgery usually causes less scarring.
- It requires no general anesthesia, which permits its use for people who may not be able to tolerate traditional surgery.
- Because it is so safe, it can be used for elderly people or in patients too fragile to undergo other forms of surgery.
- The procedure can often be performed in a office-based surgical suite, minimizing hospital time for patients.
- Because it uses microscopic examination of each layer of tissue to trace the edges of the cancer, Mohs surgery can more accurately eliminate diseased tissue and lessen the chance of recurrence.
Who performs Mohs Surgery?
Mohs surgey is named after Frederic E. Mohs, M.D. who developed the procedure in the 1930s. Mohs surgeons undergo additional training in surgery, pathology, and reconstructive surgery to provide the best possible cosmetic outcome and the highest quality of treatment for skin cancer.
Images courtesy of Gerald Goldberg, M.D. and the National Institutes of Health