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Understanding Mohs Surgery

What It Is and How It Benefits Patients

Skin cancers are incredibly common, with an estimated 5.4 million cases per year according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. This makes effective treatment for this kind of cancer very important. Luckily, Mohs surgery has a long record of success, and its effectiveness has increased over time. Many studies put the success rate of this procedure around 99 percent. In a study from 2010, only three local recurrences of SCCs occurred out of 260 incidents. That’s only a 1.2 percent recurrence rate, making it the most effective approach to squamous cell skin cancers.

The Procedure

This surgery is typically performed with a local anesthetic, which is part of why it is one of the less-expensive options for cancer therapy. After the anesthetic takes effect, the surgeon removes the visible portion of the cancer as well as a small slice of the healthy tissue beneath it. The site is then bandaged. The entire Mohs surgery process takes only a few minutes for a single removal.

Patients with multiple tumor sites that need to be treated must wait while the process is repeated. Depending on the complexity of the skin cancer and its level of development, several repetitions may be necessary.

After the tissue is removed, it’s taken to the lab to be analyzed. There the tissue is examined carefully to be sure the entire tumor was removed at each site. This process takes an hour or so, and if any of the tissue samples show the tumor was incompletely removed, the surgery is continued until the entire cancer has been removed. Patients should plan to pass the time in the waiting room during this analysis with a book or magazine, because they need to stay at the hospital during the wait.


Mohs surgery is typically an outpatient procedure with a short recovery time. Depending on the amount of tissue being removed, the surgeon may opt for any of the following techniques to minimize scarring:

  • Bandaging the wound and letting it heal
  • Stitching at the surgery site
  • Using a skin flap to shift skin from nearby
  • Transplanting skin from elsewhere on the body with a graft

The more complex the method used, the more complex the healing process is likely to be. Keeping the surgery site clean and bandaged is integral to patient recovery under any circumstances.

Advantages for Patients

Mohs surgery provides patients with a variety of benefits. Not only does it have an extremely high success rate, it also provides patients the opportunity for total tumor removal in a single procedure. This spares patients the side effects seen in longer-term treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. The healing at the surgery site could cause discomfort for a few days or weeks, but there is none of the hair loss or weight loss associated with aggressive cancer therapies. On top of that, being an outpatient procedure makes it more affordable and accessible to patients with busy schedules.

Talk to a Specialist

If you’ve been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell cancer in its early stages, Mohs surgery is likely to be the best treatment for your case. Come see our experienced specialists at Windsor Dermatology in East Windsor, New Jersey for a skin evaluation. You can call our office at 609-443-4500 or request an appointment online today!

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