Understanding Mohs Surgery: A Guide for Patients
Mohs surgery is a specialized type of skin cancer treatment that is designed to remove cancerous tissue while minimizing the loss of healthy tissue. It is often used for non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, as well as some types of melanoma. In this article, we will provide an overview of Mohs surgery, including how it works, the risks and benefits, and what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.
How Mohs Surgery Works
Mohs surgery is a multistep procedure that involves the removal and examination of thin layers of skin tissue. It is typically performed by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon who is specially trained in the technique. Here’s how it works:
- The surgeon removes a thin layer of tissue from the cancerous area and examines it under a microscope to determine if all of the cancerous cells have been removed.
- If any cancerous cells remain, the surgeon will mark the area on a map of the surgical site and remove another layer of tissue from that specific area.
- This process is repeated until all of the cancerous cells have been removed.
- The use of a microscope during the procedure allows the surgeon to precisely locate and remove all of the cancerous tissue, minimizing the risk of recurrence and preserving as much healthy tissue as possible.
Risks and Benefits
Like any surgical procedure, Mohs surgery carries some risks, including bleeding, infection, scarring, and allergic reactions to the anesthesia. However, the procedure is generally considered to be very safe and effective, with a high success rate for the complete removal of cancerous tissue.
One of the main benefits of Mohs surgery is that it allows the surgeon to remove the cancerous tissue layer by layer, allowing for a more precise and thorough removal of the cancerous cells. This can result in a smaller scar and a lower risk of recurrence compared to traditional excision surgery, which involves the removal of a larger area of skin.
Preparing for Mohs Surgery
Before undergoing Mohs surgery, your healthcare provider will give you instructions on how to prepare. This may include:
- Stopping certain medications or supplements that could increase the risk of bleeding.
- Avoiding sun exposure on the surgical site for a period of time before the procedure.
- Refraining from wearing makeup or lotion on the day of the surgery.
- You should also plan for someone to drive you home after the procedure, as the anesthesia can impair your ability to drive safely.
The Mohs Surgery Procedure
Mohs surgery is typically performed on an outpatient basis, meaning that you will be able to go home the same day. The procedure usually takes several hours to complete and can be performed under local anesthesia, which numbs the surgical site, or under general anesthesia, which puts you to sleep.
During the procedure, the surgeon will remove a thin layer of tissue from the cancerous area and examine it under a microscope. If any cancerous cells remain, the surgeon will mark the area on a map of the surgical site and remove another layer of tissue from that specific area. This process will be repeated until all of the cancerous cells have been removed.
Recovery after Mohs Surgery
After the procedure, you may experience some pain and swelling at the surgical site. Your healthcare provider will provide you with instructions on how to care for the site, which may include keeping it clean and dry, applying ointment or dressing as directed, and avoiding activities that could cause strain or injury to the area.
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