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Why Mohs Micrographic Surgery is the Gold Standard for Removing Skin Cancers with Minimal Scarring

A surgeon is putting a bandage on a child's nose.
A surgeon is putting a bandage on a child's nose.

Mohs micrographic surgery is widely regarded as the gold standard treatment for many types of skin cancer. It offers patients the highest cure rates while optimally preserving healthy tissue. But what exactly makes Mohs top notch?

In this post, we’ll explore the key factors that set Mohs apart and make it a superior procedure

What is Mohs Micrographic Surgery?

Mohs micrographic surgery, often referred to simply as Mohs surgery, is a precise surgical technique used to treat common skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It was developed back in the 1930s by Dr. Frederic Mohs, and offers the highest cure rates of any skin cancer treatment available today.

Unlike other methods that remove layers and examine them later, Mohs allows for immediate examination and mapping of margins right in the clinic. This means any microscopic roots of cancer can be traced and removed while sparing healthy tissue. 

It’s a highly effective approach that results in cure rates near 100% for common skin cancers.

Why Does Mohs Have Such High Cure Rates?

Mohs has a 99% 5-year cure rate for primary basal cell carcinoma, compared to cure rates of 90-95% for other techniques like surgical excision. It also has higher cure rates for recurrent basal cell carcinomas, as well as squamous cell carcinomas.

But why exactly does Mohs achieve such excellent results? There are a few key reasons:


Mohs allows the surgeon to pinpoint and remove all detectable cancerous roots and cells by analyzing tissue under a microscope during the procedure. This ensures no cancer is left behind.


Cancerous tissue is removed in stages, with each new layer carefully checked until no cancer remains. This removes all traces of cancer.


Each tissue layer removed is precisely measured, diagrammed, and mapped. This allows the surgeon to go back and take additional tissue only where cancer cells persist.

Mohs surgeons are also highly trained to read slides and can detect the most minute cancerous cells. Their expertise allows them to find and remove all cancer, resulting in very high cure rates.

How is Mohs Surgery Done?

A person in a blue surgical gown.
A person in a blue surgical gown.

During Mohs surgery, the visible skin cancer is first removed. The edges around the site are then carefully mapped and marked with dyes. Very thin layers of additional tissue are excised from the edges, with each new layer precisely mapped. These samples are immediately processed and examined under a microscope by the Mohs surgeon, right there in the office.

If any cancer cells remain, the surgeon can pinpoint their location and take another thin layer from only the involved areas.

This process continues one layer at a time until the margins are completely clear of cancer. By removing only diseased tissue in a very targeted manner, Mohs allows maximal preservation of healthy skin. This makes it ideal for delicate areas on the face, hands, and other highly visible locations.

Who Performs Mohs Surgery?

Mohs surgery is performed by fellowship-trained Mohs surgeons who have completed highly specialized training. 

After finishing dermatology residency, Mohs surgeons complete an additional 1 year minimum of intensive fellowship education under the supervision of senior surgeons.

This advanced training allows them to master the highly precise pathology processing and mapping techniques involved. Mohs surgeons become experts in personalized layer-by-layer removal and microscopic margin analysis.

It’s important to verify your Mohs surgeon is fellowship-trained and a member of the American College of Mohs Surgery. These specialized surgeons have the extensive knowledge and experience to deliver truly top notch Mohs treatment.

How is Recovery After Mohs Surgery

After Mohs surgery, you can expect some swelling, bruising, and discomfort typical of any surgical procedure. Your Mohs surgeon will explain how to care for the site as it heals over the next couple weeks. Though Mohs does leave a scar, the aim is to optimize the final appearance. 

Here’s what to expect:

  • Scars often appear pink or red at first. This is temporary inflammation and improves over time.
  • As the wound heals, skin tightening and hardness may occur. This usually peaks around 4-6 weeks post-op.
  • In most cases, the scar continues to soften and fade substantially over several months to a year.
  • If needed, laser therapy can be used to reduce scarring and optimize the final result.
  • Recurrence rates are extremely low when Mohs is performed properly by a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon.

Follow up appointments allow your surgeon to closely monitor healing and intervene if necessary. But in most cases, patients heal well with minimal scarring using this top notch treatment.

The Takeaway

A group of people posing for a photo in an office.
A group of people posing for a photo in an office.

When diagnosed with common skin cancers like basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma, Mohs micrographic surgery offers the most effective removal method available. Its ability to precisely trace out and eliminate cancerous roots, while maximizing preservation of healthy tissue, makes Mohs a truly top notch treatment option.

With cure rates approaching 100% even for large or high-risk tumors, Mohs provides the gold standard therapy for these skin cancers

Just be sure to see a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon for the best results. If you have a suspicious lesion that needs evaluation, don’t wait - get it looked at and catch any potential skin cancer early. Your skin health is too important to put off.

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