Mohs micrographic surgery — named after Frederic E. Mohs, MD, Professor Emeritus of Surgery at the University of Wisconsin — requires highly specialized training and is acknowledged as the most effective and advanced treatment for skin cancer. Developed in 1956, this technique has been refined and today it offers the highest cure rate — 99 percent for basal and squamous cell carcinoma, the two most common skin cancers.
Mohs surgery is a highly precise procedure of layer by layer tissue removal. Each layer is then frozen and then examined under the microscope to determine if any cancer cells remain. The process effectively removes all cancer cells while saving the surrounding healthy tissue. A Mohs surgeon then uses special training in reconstructive surgery to restore the wound area to its normal healthy appearance.
Mohs surgery is usually an outpatient procedure performed in a physician’s office. Typically, it starts early in the morning and can be completed the same day, depending on the extent of the tumor and the amount of reconstruction. Local anesthesia is administered around the area of the tumor so the procedure is almost completely painless.
As soon as the affected area is declared cancer-free, the Mohs surgeon discusses post-surgical options with the patient such as:
- a small, simple wound may be allowed to heal on its own.
- a slightly larger wound may be closed with stitches.
- larger wounds may require a skin graft or a flap.
- if the tumor is very large, another surgeon with special skills may be called upon to assist with reconstruction.
Post-reconstructive check-ups are recommended in order to monitor the patient’s progress and spot any possible cancer recurrence in a timely manner.
Nearly 50 percent of patients with one skin cancer will develop another within five years. Follow up is extremely important for early detection of any new lesions.