Here's What to Expect at Your Upcoming Mohs Surgery

Pure Dermatology
October 6, 2023

Mohs surgery is the gold standard for treating certain types of skin cancer. If Mohs surgery is in your future, here’s what you can expect during your treatment.

Nearly 10,000 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day, mostly basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. Fortunately, these types of skin cancer are highly treatable using a technique called Mohs surgery, considered the gold standard treatment for common nonmelanoma skin cancers.

At Pure Dermatology in Austin, Texas, Chelsey Straight, MD, FAAD, is double board-certified in Dermatology and Mohs Micrographic surgery. With extensive training and experience using Mohs surgery to treat skin cancers while preserving healthy tissue and minimizing scarring, Dr. Straight has performed thousands of mohs procedures.

Basic facts about Mohs surgery

Also called Mohs micrographic surgery, this procedure was developed in the 1930s by a surgeon named Fredric Mohs. Many dermatologists seeking an effective way to treat skin cancer soon adopted it, and Mohs surgery today has a cure rates of up to 99%. Mohs surgery is frequently referred to as a “tissue-sparing surgery” because its technique focuses on removing cancerous tissue while preserving as much surrounding healthy tissue as possible. Your surgeon performs the procedure in a series of stages to make sure all the cancerous tissue is removed. During each stage of tissue removal from the target site, your surgeon examines that tissue under a microscope, carefully evaluating the edges or borders of the tissue. If cancer cells are present, your surgeon removes a little more tissue and evaluates it, repeating the process until the borders are clear of cancer cells.  

What to expect during your surgery

Mohs surgery begins with one or more injections of a local anesthetic to numb the surgical site. Once the area is completely numb, your surgeon marks the area with a special marker and then uses surgical instruments to remove thin layers of skin at the site of the visible lesion. The process takes time because of the tissue mapping to check for cancerous cells. If tissue pathology reveals cancer cells in the border areas of any removed tissue, your surgeon remaps the site and removes additional tissue until no cancer cells are present. Once the cancerous tissue is removed, your surgeon closes the wound with sutures or other methods. Oftentimes, much of your time is spent waiting for the tissue to be processed. We often ask patients to reserve six hours for the procedure, although most of our patients are finished in 2-3 hours.  

Learn more about skin cancer treatment

Mohs surgery helps patients eliminate certain cancerous skin lesions, but having regular skin cancer screenings is important to catch skin cancers early. Having an annual skin checkup helps us identify cancers early before they have a chance to spread. To learn more about skin cancer prevention and treatment or to schedule a skin cancer screening, call 512-766-2610 or book an appointment online with the team at Pure Dermatology today.