Mohs Surgery

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What is the chance that my cancer will recur after Mohs surgery?

There is a very low chance that your skin cancer will recur after Mohs surgery. Mohs cure rates have been reported as high as 96%-99%.

It is important to understand that no cancer treatment or surgery has a 100% cure rate. A skin cancer may recur or a new cancer may arise in the same or adjacent area even after Mohs or other surgery. Some skin cancers are more aggressive than others and need additional treatment and closer follow-up. Skin cancers frequently need additional follow-up and possible further treatment. Although Mohs surgery tends to have the highest cure rate compared to other treatments, Mohs may not be necessarily curative in advanced skin cancer (rare) and may need one or more procedures, such as radiation or further surgery, to fully treat the lesion. Follow-up appointments with your physician are very important, especially in the first few years after Mohs surgery. Many patients are seen every four to six months after their diagnosis of a skin cancer. Monthly self-examinations of the skin are good practice for patients with a history of skin cancer. Any changing or new growth should be promptly checked by your physician. More regular follow-up appointments may be needed for those with more aggressive tumors or tumors in high-risk areas. Your physician will recommend the proper follow-up for your specific condition.

How many "levels" of Mohs surgery will I need?

On average, most patients may only need one or two levels before clearing the tumor. Depending on the skin cancer type and location, a patient may need anywhere from one to 10 or more levels of Mohs to clear a tumor.

There is no way to predict ahead of time how many levels your cancer will require for cure. The number of Mohs levels needed to completely remove the skin cancer depends on how big your cancer is. Mohs surgeons always try to remove your cancer in as few levels as possible.

There is very little way to predict beforehand how large a skin cancer is because often there are invisible portions that can be seen only with the help of a microscope. Sometimes, more than one surgical procedure may be required to remove very large or invasive tumors, cancers in small areas or difficult areas, or to obtain the best medical and cosmetic result.

How are skin cancers treated?

There are many effective ways to treat skin cancers. Options include local radiation (X-ray) treatments, curettage and desiccation "C&D" (scrape and burn), cryosurgery (specialized deep freezing), photodynamic therapy using Levulan and laser and or blue light, regular surgical excision, laser removal and surgery, Mohs surgery, and several prescription creams, including imiquimod (Aldara) and fluorouracil (Efudex).

REFERENCE:

Connolly, Suzanne M., et al. "AAD/ACMS/ASDSA/ASMS 2012 appropriate use criteria for Mohs micrographic surgery: A report of the American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Mohs Surgery, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association, and the American Society for Mohs Surgery." J Am Acad Dermatol 67.4 (2012): 531-550.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/8/2015
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