a doctor examining a patient's skin near her wrist

Mohs Surgery | Illinois Dermatology Institute

Mohs Surgery is the most effective treatment option for common skin cancer diagnoses.

At IDI, we understand that being told you have skin cancer can be life-changing. If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed and you’re trying to determine If you’re a candidate for Mohs surgery or simply curious as to what the treatment process entails, we’ve got you covered.

We recognize that transparency makes all the difference in skin cancer treatment. From what to expect before Mohs surgery to how to recuperate post-op, understanding the entire process can make a world of difference to anyone who has to experience this treatment.

Let’s explore the ins and outs of Mohs Surgery.


What is Mohs Surgery?

Mohs surgery is the gold standard in skin cancer treatment. It is often referred to as Mohs micrographic surgery. It is an effective surgical dermatology option for the two most common skin cancers: basal cell carcinomas (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

Mohs surgery offers the highest curability rate, with up to 99% of patients successfully recovering from skin cancer with a significant drop in overall recurrence rates.

Mohs surgery is an excellent option for those with cancer in areas that have less skin and tissue, such as around the eyes, mouth, lips, scalp, or hands. The goal of the surgery is to leave as much healthy skin as possible on your body and only extract the areas that are actively under skin cancer siege. As a result, the scars from Mohs surgery are often minimal.

Mohs surgery is not for everyone, but in some unique instances, Mohs surgery can treat more rare forms of skin cancer, such as Merkel cell carcinoma.

What does Mohs surgery involve?

Mohs surgery is a single-visit outpatient procedure that can last anywhere from 2 to 8 hours, depending on the size of the area being treated. It requires lab testing and local anesthesia to treat the area most effectively. Before the procedure, you should follow the guidelines of your dermatologist to properly prepare for the day of surgery.

In most cases, the following steps are taken during Mohs surgery:

  1. A dermatologist examines the affected area being treated and marks off the treatment zone with a surgical marker.
  2. You are positioned for best access to the affected area, and a surgical covering is placed over the area.
  3. Local anesthesia is administered.
  4. The surgeon then removes a thin layer of visible cancerous tissue using a scalpel.
  5. The surgeon cuts the tissue into sections, dyes them, and draws a map of the surgical site.
  6. The specimens are then sent to a lab where a technician freezes the divided tissue and cuts very thin horizontal slices. The slices are placed on microscope slides, stained, and covered.
  7. The surgeon verifies the specimens under a microscope to check for active cancer cells.
  8. Additional layers are removed and reexamined until no cancer cells remain.
  9. The wound is closed with stitches.

What does recovery look like?

After surgery, you may experience mild discomfort with common symptoms like bruising or swelling. It is recommended that you refrain from rigorous activities for at least 7-10 days. Daily wound care is required, and post-operative instructions will be provided before discharge. Most wounds heal within 4-6 weeks.

To learn more about Mohs surgery or to schedule your consultation, contact us today. Your skin is always our top priority.

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