WHAT IS MOHS SURGERY?
Mohs surgery is a specialized, highly effective technique for removing skin cancers. Mohs surgery differs from other skin cancer treatments in that it permits the immediate and complete microscopic examination of the removed cancer tissue so that all roots and extensions of the cancer can be eliminated. Mohs surgery has the highest reported cure rate of all treatments for skin cancer.
Treating all skin cancers with Mohs surgery is not necessary. Mohs surgery is reserved for skin cancers that grow back after previous treatment, cancers that are at high risk of recurring, or cancers that are located in cosmetic areas where preservation of the maximum amount of normal skin is important.
Physicians who have the training, surgical and laboratory facilities, and staff to perform this specialized technique practice Mohs surgery. Dr. Svancara received extensive experience in Mohs surgery during his residency training.
WHY REMOVE SKIN CANCERS WITH MOHS SURGERY?
Some skin cancers are deceptively large and far bigger under the skin than they appear to be from the surface. These cancers may follow along blood vessels, nerves, or cartilage. Also, skin cancers that recur after previous treatments may spread deep under the scar tissue that has formed. Mohs surgery is specifically designed to remove these cancers by tracking and removing all cancerous cells.
HOW IS MOHS SURGERY DONE?
There are three steps involved in Mohs surgery:
1. The skin is made completely numb using a local anesthetic. The visible cancer is removed with a thin layer of additional tissue. This takes only a few minutes and the patient may then return to the waiting room.
2. The specimen is color coded to distinguish top from bottom and left from right. A technician freezes the tissue and removes very thin slices from the entire edge and undersurface. These slices are placed on microscope slides and stained for examination under the microscope. This is the most time consuming part of the procedure, often requiring an hour or more to complete.
3. Dr. Svancara then carefully examines these slides under the microscope. This allows examination of the entire surgical margin of the removed tissue. That is, the entire undersurface and the complete edge of the specimen is examined. Any remaining microscopic evidence of the cancer can thus be precisely identified and pinpointed on the Mohs map.
If more cancer is found on the microscope slides, Dr. Svancara will remove additional tissue only where cancer is present. This allows the Mohs surgery technique to leave the smallest possible surgical defect.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
Most cases can be completed in three or fewer stages, requiring less than four hours. However, no one can predict how extensive a cancer will be because the size of a skin cancer cannot be estimated in advance. We therefore ask that you reserve the entire day for surgery, in case additional surgical sessions are required.
WILL IT LEAVE A SCAR?
Yes. Any form of surgery leaves a scar. Mohs surgery, however, will leave one of the smallest possible surgical defects, and therefore a smaller final scar.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE MOHS SURGERY IS COMPLETED?
When the cancer is removed, Dr. Svancara will discuss with you your options. These may include suturing to close the wound or allowing the wound to heal naturally on its own.
WILL I HAVE PAIN, BRUISING, OR SWELLING AFTER SURGERY?
Most patients do not complain of significant pain. If there is discomfort, Tylenol is usually all that is necessary for relief. However, stronger pain medications may be prescribed when needed. You may have some bruising and swelling around the wound, especially if surgery is being done close to the eyes.
WILL MY INSURANCE COVER THE COST?
Most insurance policies cover the costs of Mohs surgery and the surgical reconstruction of the wound. Please check with your insurance carrier for exact information relating to your surgery.
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR SURGERY?
Get a good night’s rest and eat normally the day of surgery. If you are taking prescription medications, continue to take them unless otherwise directed. However, avoid taking medications that contain aspirin for ten days before your surgery with approval from your prescribing physician. Also please do not take any substitutes, such as Advil, Motrin, Nalfon, Naprosyn, etc. within 24 hours of surgery. You may, however, take Tylenol at any time before surgery. Please notify us if you have any artificial joints, a pacemaker or valve replacement as we may ask you to take antibiotics before your surgery. You may want to bring a book or magazine with you to occupy your time while waiting for your slides to be processed and examined.