What Is a Mohs Procedure for Skin Cancer?


Quick Answer

A Mohs procedure for skin cancer is surgery that involves progressive removal of cancerous skin layers, according to Mayo Clinic. Each layer that is removed is examined for cancer under a microscope, and the process is repeated until the remaining skin is free of cancer. Doctors perform Mohs surgery under a local anesthesia.

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Prior to the procedure, a surgeon may advise a patient temporarily to stop ingesting certain medications, such as aspirin and warfarin, as they may predispose the patient to excessive bleeding, explains Mayo Clinic. To perform the procedure, the doctor starts by injecting the affected area with a local anesthetic to prevent pain and then cuts off the tumor with a scalpel so the tumor comes off with a thin layer of skin beneath it. The doctor bandages the area, takes the skin layer to the laboratory for cancer examination and repeats the process until all cancerous layers are off the skin. Repairing the wound completes this process.

Typically, doctors perform Mohs surgery in the treatment of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and certain melanomas, notes Mayo Clinic. The procedure is suitable when dealing with recurrent skin cancer, aggressive skin cancer and cancer that occur in body parts where preservation of healthy tissue is crucial. Such parts include the ears, eyes, mouth, hands and feet. Though useful, Mohs surgery may lead to complications such as hematoma, infection and permanent numbness around the area. It may also cause keloids and itching around the surgical area.

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