Mohs micrographic surgery is considered the most effective technique for treating many basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs), the two most common types of skin cancer. The procedure is done in stages, including lab work, while the patient waits. This allows the removal of all cancerous cells for the highest cure rate while sparing healthy tissue and leaving the smallest possible scar.
It began as a technique called chemosurgery, developed by Frederic E. Mohs, MD, in the late 1930s, but was not widely known. In the mid 1960s, Perry Robins, MD, became the first dermatologist to study the technique with Dr. Mohs, and he helped advance the procedure into what is now called Mohs micrographic surgery.
Who Performs the Procedure?
Mohs surgery is performed by doctors who are specially trained to fulfill three roles:
- as the surgeon who removes the cancerous tissue
- as the pathologist who analyzes the lab specimens
- as the surgeon who closes or reconstructs the wound
What Happens During Mohs Surgery?
The procedure is done in stages, all in one visit, while the patient waits between each stage. After removing a layer of 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.
Is Mohs Right for Me?
Mohs surgery is the gold standard for treating many basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (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.