How Long Does Mohs Surgery Take & What to Expect

There are three major types of skin cancer—basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Skin cancer is typically on the scalp, ears, neck, arms, hands, legs, lips, and face. However, it also has the potential to form in areas that don’t receive sunlight. Mohs surgery is used to treat most types of skin cancer including: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, some kinds of melanoma, and other more unusual skin cancers.

Mohs Surgery is especially useful…

  • for skin cancers which have recurred or naturally have a high risk of recurrence
  • when the skin cancer is located in areas where you want to limit the wounded area and preserve as much healthy tissue as possible – areas on the face, hands, feet, and genitals are most common.
  • when the borders are difficult to identify.
  • for skin cancers that are large or aggressive.

What is Mohs Surgery?

Mohs Surgery is considered the most effective technique for treating these two types of skin cancer today—basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Mohs surgery has the unique benefit of allowing the surgeon to see where the cancer stops. In this case, the surgeon can keep as much healthy skin as possible. They will work to progressively remove the skin layers until only cancer-free tissue remains. Areas of the body that consist of very little skin to begin with, such as the eyelids, ears, or hands especially benefit from this procedure. Patients are less likely to need additional surgeries in the future because of Mohs high cure rate.

Preparing for Mohs Surgery

  • Inform your surgeon about any medications you are currently taking—It is vital to inform your surgeon about any current medications that you are on. Some medications and supplements can act as blood thinners, which can be dangerous during an operation.
  • Clear your schedule—As stated previously, the extent of cancer is often unknown until the procedure is already taking place. Generally, it can be completed within a few hours. However, surgeons advise that patients clear their schedule with the chance that it lasts for the duration of the day.
  • Wear comfortable clothing—It is advantageous to wear comfortable clothing on the day of your operation. Health care rooms are typically set to a lower temperature. Wearing layers allows patients to adjust to the temperature of the room.
  • Bring items to pass time—You can expect to spend some time in the waiting room, as with any other medical procedure. It would be useful to bring a book, magazine or an electronic to pass time.
  • Finding a surgeon— Mohs surgeons have undergone extensive training within the field. Although many dermatologists are licensed to perform the surgery, it is important to know their experience and training within Mohs specifically.

What to Expect:

The surgery is performed in an outpatient basis, within an operating or procedure room. The location will also have a nearby laboratory for the surgeon to examine the layers of tissue in between tissue removal. It is advised for a patient to clear their schedule for the day because most times the extent of cancer is unknown. Unless the location of your tumor requires it, a surgical gown is often not necessary. A local anesthetic will be applied to numb the skin, ensuring that the patient does not experience any discomfort throughout the process.

After the procedure

After Mohs surgery, you and your surgeon will determine how to repair the wound. Depending on the extent of the cancer and your operation, this might include:

  • Allowing the wound heal on its own
  • Close the wound with stitches
  • Taking skin from an adjacent area to cover the wound – referred to as a “skin flap”
  • Grafting skin from another part of the body to cover the wound
  • In extreme cases a referral to a plastic surgeon may be recommended.

Preventing Skin Cancer:

There are ways to protect yourself from the greater likelihood of getting skin cancer.

  • Avoid the strongest sun rays: Excessive sun exposure increases your risk of getting skin cancer, especially if you don’t guard your skin. The hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. pose the greatest risk for sun damage because that is when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Therefore, it would be advantageous to avoid direct sunlight during these times.
  • Wear sunscreen: Wearing sun skin, even on cloudy days is important. It is recommended to wear at least 30 SPF and to reapply as often as 2 hours.
  • Check your skin regularly: It is essential to perform regular skin checks on yourself. Utilizing a mirror when examining your skin can help assess those hard-to-see areas.
  • Visit a professional: In addition to self-checks, an annual visit to a dermatologist is recommended. If you notice any abnormalities or changes in your skin, it is necessary to schedule a visit with a professional as soon as possible.

If you are looking for a specialized Mohs Surgeon, visit our dermatologists in the Villages or Leesburg. Dr. Gurgen worked exclusively as a Mohs Microscopic Surgeon prior to establishing his practice. He is ranked in the top 1% of Mohs Surgeons in the nation. As an award-winning dermatologist and Mohs Surgeon, his goal is to provide his patients with a successful outcome and minimal scarring. You can learn more about Dr. Gurgen and his qualifications here. Contact our office for an appointment today.