Sun & Skin News

Mohs Surgery for the Newly Diagnosed: What You Need to Know

By Skin Cancer Foundation • April 24, 2024
consultation with doctor

If you’re reading this, you or someone you care about was probably diagnosed with skin cancer, and a doctor may have recommended Mohs surgery as the best treatment option.

You’re not alone. More than 5 million cases of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are treated in the U.S. each year. Of these skin cancers, approximately 80 percent occur on the head and neck, locations that get significant sun exposure. Mohs surgery may be recommended by doctors for treating skin cancers in these cosmetically challenging locations, as well as other areas of the body.

The good news is that when detected and treated early, the vast majority of skin cancers are curable. At the same time, words like “cancer” and “surgery” can be frightening. Learning what you need to know about your condition and treatment can help put your mind at ease.

What Is Mohs Surgery, and When Is It Used?

Mohs surgery is a precise, intricate, highly effective procedure, considered the gold standard for treating many BCCs and SCCs, including those in cosmetically and functionally important areas around the eyes, nose, lips, ears, scalp, fingers, toes or genitals. Mohs is also recommended for BCCs or SCCs that are large, aggressive or growing rapidly, that have indistinct edges or have recurred after previous treatment.

Some surgeons are also successfully using Mohs surgery on certain cases of melanoma.

About the Procedure

The procedure is performed by doctors who are specially trained in Mohs surgery, pathology and reconstructive surgery. Mohs surgery is done in stages all in one visit, while the patient waits between each stage. After removing a layer of visible cancerous tissue, the surgeon examines it under a microscope in an on-site lab. If any cancer cells remain, the surgeon knows the exact area where they are and removes another layer of tissue from that precise location, while sparing as much healthy tissue as possible. The doctor repeats this process until no cancer cells remain.

Advantages of Mohs Surgery

Mohs is an efficient, cost-effective treatment, done on an outpatient basis that usually only requires a single visit. The surgeon uses local anesthesia and an on-site lab.

The surgery results are precise. The physician examines 100 percent of tumor margins, while sparing healthy tissue and leaving the smallest scar possible.

Mohs offers the highest skin cancer cure rate: up to 99 percent for a skin cancer that has not been treated before, and up to 94 percent for a skin cancer that has recurred after previous treatment.

More on Mohs

If you’re looking for more detailed information, check our step-by-step guide to Mohs surgery.

Protect Yourself

If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, there is a good chance you will develop more skin cancers. Early detection is key for the best outcome.

  • Follow up with your doctor and schedule regular skin checks.
  • Between appointments, pay attention to your skin. If you notice anything new, changing or unusual, get checked as soon as possible.
  • Prevent future skin cancers with a complete sun protection strategy that includes using sunscreen, seek the shade and covering up with clothing, hats and sunglasses.

Are you newly diagnosed with skin cancer? Get information, answers and resources on our Newly Diagnosed with Skin Cancer page.

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